Saturday, March 17, 2007

Proud to be a Norwegian: Norway Recognizes Palestinian Unity Gov't

"GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The new Hamas-Fatah coalition won overwhelming parliamentary approval Saturday, clearing a final formal hurdle before taking on the challenge of persuading a skeptical world to end a crippling yearlong boycott of the Palestinian government.

"After the 83-3 vote was announced, lawmakers jumped up for a standing ovation. In all, parliament has 132 members, but 41 are in Israeli detention.

"Presenting the government's program ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the coalition wants to set up a Palestinian state in the lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast War. He said the Palestinians affirm the right to resist occupation, but will also seek to expand a truce with Israel.

"The platform fell short of international conditions for acceptance, including explicit recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence.

"Israel reiterated Saturday that it will not deal with the new government, while a senior U.N. official signaled flexibility. "This is a significant step in the right direction," said Alvaro de Soto, special U.N. coordinator for the Middle East, who attended the session. "We will be watching with interest to see how this program is implemented."

"Moments after the new government was approved, Norway — a key player in Mideast peacemaking and a steadfast contributor to the Palestinian Authority — said it would normalize relations with the Hamas-Fatah coalition.

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