Abbas says agreement reached on Fatah-Hamas coalition government

The militant Islamic Hamas agreed Monday to share power with its rival, the moderate Fatah, surrendering to Western economic sanctions that bankrupted its government, causing widespread hardships and turning many of its constituents against their leaders.

The breakthrough compromise, though falling short of international demands from Hamas for a full renunciation of violence, could help pave the way for renewed contacts between Israel and the Palestinian government. Israeli officials voiced cautious support for the deal.

Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction, swept to victory in January legislative elections, defeating Fatah, and formed a government by itself. The West and Israel reacted by cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, accusing Hamas of being a terrorist group. They say Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept previous peace agreements.

After months of on-and-off talks, President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas announced the accord.

"The continuous efforts to form a national unity government have ended successfully with the announcement of a political program for this government," Abbas told Palestinian television. "Efforts in the next few days will continue to complete the formation of the national unity government."

Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said the president would dissolve the existing Hamas-led government within 48 hours to clear the way for the formation of a coalition, reports AP.

Haniyeh, who said earlier that he would retain his post in the new government, confirmed the two parties planned to rule together.

"I bring good news to the Palestinian people, and I feel proud and content that at this important moment we establish a national coalition government," Haniyeh said.