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Palestinian Unity Gov't Dialogue Resumes
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Talks on forming a Palestinian national unity government resumed on Thursday, one day after Prime Minister Ismail Haneya of Hamas suspended the talks, a mediator said.

Mustafa al-Barghouti, an independent lawmaker who mediated between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas, said that "talks on forming a national unity government resumed and they were in full swing."
Al-Barghouti said that progress has been made and most of controversial points have been settled, adding a general agreement has been achieved on outlines of a new government and detailed were under discussions.

He said that a new cabinet would be declared in two weeks. Earlier, a spokesman for Abbas said that it was very close to announcing a national unity government.

Haneya suspended the talks in the wake of a deadly Israeli artillery bombardment that killed 19 Palestinian civilians on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed his hope to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas following the Beit Hanoun tragedy.

"(Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud) Abbas will be surprised how far we are prepared to go. I can offer him a lot," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Sky's Adam Boulton in an interview at the Conference for Export and International Cooperation in Tel Aviv.

"I am prepared to meet him any time, any place," he said, adding that he had a lot of respect for Abu Mazen, calling him "very decent and up-front."

Referring to the shelling on Beit Hanoun, Olmert commented that it was a tragedy which was resulted from "a technical error."

It was seen as the deadliest tragedy on Palestinian civilians in the past years, prompting a wave of strong censure across the Arab world and the international community.

"In the general context it could have been the other way around, a Qassam could have hit Sderot or Ashqelon. Those shots are aimed at civilians while we don't mean to harm civilians. But Israel is strong enough to admit and regret," Olmert was quoted as saying.

The prime minister also said he had personally looked into the cause of the lethal bombardment.

"It was a technical failure of the Israeli artillery. I checked it, and I verified it."

However, he said Israel will continue its military operations in Gaza as long as Palestinian rocket attacks persist. He said Israel will do everything it can to avoid similar mistakes, but warned that further tragedies are possible. "It may happen," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 10, 2006)


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