ROUNDUP: Palestinian talks begin again in Cairo

Palestinian talks begin again in CairoGaza City/Cairo  - As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally took office at the helm of a government dominated by hardline parties on Wednesday, delegates from 13 Palestinian factions resumed talks on forming a "national unity" government in Cairo.

In this, the third round of Egyptian-brokered Palestinian talks, negotiators will try to hash out the political platform of the national unity government, lay out preparations for presidential and legislative elections and determine the composition and control of Palestinian security forces, representatives from Fatah and Hamas said.

"I can assure you that Hamas is going into the talks with open hearts and minds," senior Hamas politician Ismail Radwan said in a statement sent to reporters Wednesday.

"We are serious in this dialogue. ... We really hope that through this round of dialogue we will be able to reach a Palestinian- Palestinian agreement that unifies us."

Delegates from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank, arrived in Cairo Tuesday night and had preliminary talks ahead of Wednesday's broader meeting.

In the first round of Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks, delegates agreed in principle to form an interim government and to hold fresh elections by January 25, 2010. The platform and composition of the government, however, have yet to be negotiated.

Senior Fatah leader Ahmed Qureia is leading the Fatah delegation in the talks, Fatah officials have said, and Mussa Abu Marzouq, from Hamas' Damascus-based politburo, leads his movement's delegation.

Palestinian negotiators suspended their talks on March 19 after Hamas and Fatah failed to agree on whether the new Palestinian government would "respect" or "abide by" commitments the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) made in previous negotiations, including recognizing the state of Israel.

On Monday, Fatah announced that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will continue in his position until a national unity government is formed.

Fayyad had previously said he would step down effective March 31 to clear the way for a new government. Hamas has made his replacement a precondition of their participation in the interim government. (dpa)

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