Egypt Presents Fatah, Hamas With Palestinian Unity Proposal

Cairo paper calls on Abbas to continue peace talks with Israel, but says any deal needs Hamas approval.

Egypt on Monday called on rival Palestinian factions to form a unity government and restructure their security forces in a bid to end hostilities that have undermined efforts to reach a statehood deal.

Cairo presented a four-page proposal, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and Islamist Hamas, outlining steps the groups should take to end their power struggle.

Egypt also said Abbas should continue peace talks with Israel but that any deal needs approval from Hamas and other factions sworn to Israel's destruction.

Egypt drafted the proposal after a series of talks with 13 Palestinian factions. It will be discussed when the groups meet again in Cairo on November 9.

Previous Arab-led initiatives have failed to reconcile the bitter rivals.

The Egyptian proposal calls for the immediate formation of a Palestinian unity government and an agreement on when to hold national elections.

A previous unity government collapsed after Hamas routed Fatah forces to take control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Abbas sacked the Hamas-led government and appointed a Western-backed administration in the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.

The groups also disagree on when to hold new elections, with Fatah calling for both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2010 and Hamas saying Abbas's term ends in January 2009. Cairo's proposal calls for simultaneous elections.

Egypt said that Hamas and Fatah security forces should be removed from factional politics and be operated at a national level.

The proposal also said any peace deal Abbas reaches with Israel should be brought to a national referendum or presented to a restructured Palestinian Liberation Organization that includes Hamas and other factions that oppose the peace process.