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Olmert Guarded on Palestinian Unity Pact
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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reserved judgment Sunday on a Palestinian unity deal and a senior Israeli official said a US-brokered summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be held as planned.

"Israel neither rejects nor accepts the agreements," Olmert said about a power-sharing pact signed by Hamas and Fatah, an accord that failed to meet a core demand by the United States and other Middle East peace mediators to recognize Israel.

"At this stage, we, like the international community are learning what was exactly accomplished and what was said," he said in broadcast remarks at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

A senior Israeli official said Olmert's February 19 summit with Fatah's Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go ahead as scheduled.

Fatah and Islamist Hamas agreed in Mecca on Thursday to end factional warfare that has killed scores of Palestinians and to form a unity government, hoping the move would persuade Western powers to restore direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Olmert reiterated that Israel demanded that any new Palestinian government accept the three conditions set by a "Quartet" of Middle East peace mediators for ending the crippling economic sanctions imposed after Hamas came to power.

The group, comprising the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, wants Hamas, which defeated Fatah in an election last year, to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace accords.

The Mecca agreement made no explicit commitment to recognize Israel. A letter from Abbas reappointing Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister contained a hazy call to the movement to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people" and "respect" past agreements and international law.

A political adviser to Haniyeh said on Saturday the new government, expected to be unveiled in the coming days, would not recognize the Jewish state.

(China Daily via agencies February 12, 2007)

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