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Abbas Swears in Unity Government
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new unity government Saturday evening, with 25 members, including Prime Minister Ismail Haneya of Hamas, taking oath in Gaza City and Ramallah.

As Israel prevents Hamas ministers from traveling between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the ceremony was held simultaneously in the two cities via video conference link.

Haneya and 12 ministers took oath in Gaza City while Deputy Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahamd took oath in Ramallah with 11 ministers.

Twenty-four members were Muslims and took oath over the holy book of Quran. In Ramallah, the only Christian minister swore in over the Bible.

The ceremony was held hours after the parliament overwhelmingly approved the first coalition government that comprises Hamas and Fatah rivals.

Israel holds 41 Palestinian legislators, mostly from Hamas, out of 132 members.

The new government was formed after Hamas and Fatah reached a power-sharing deal in the Saudi city of Mecca last month, ending months of fighting that erupted after Hamas took office last year.

(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2007)

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