Sun, Oct 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Haniya defiant on recognizing Israel, calls for talks to form unity government

NY TIMES SERVICE , JERUSALEM

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya told a huge, cheering crowd on Friday that his Hamas movement would not give in to the international pressure that has crip-pled his government, and said the group still had no intention of recognizing Israel.

"I tell you with all honesty, we will not recognize Israel, we will not recognize Israel, we will not recognize Israel," Haniya said to thunderous applause from tens of thousands of Hamas supporters, many waving green Hamas flags, at the Yarmouk soccer stadium in Gaza City.

Haniya also called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah movement, to return to Gaza to resume talks on a national unity government, which have broken down amid rising tensions between the two main Palestinian factions.

"Come down to Gaza to protect our people and declare our commitment to a national unity government," Haniya said in remarks directed at Abbas, who works out of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

During the lengthy speech on a sweltering afternoon, Haniya appeared on the verge of collapse at one point and could not continue his remarks. Bodyguards rushed to physically support him and whisked him off the stage. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Haniya, like many Muslims, observes a dawn-to-dusk fast, which apparently caused his weakness.

He re-emerged about 10 minutes later and continued his speech. "Our bodies may get tired, but our souls will not," Haniya said as the crowd roared.

Haniya's speech and the large Hamas rally were seen as a rebuttal to Abbas, who said on Wednesday that the current political stalemate could not go on indefinitely.

Abbas also said he was prepared to invoke his presidential powers and dismiss the government, which is dominated by Hamas.

Abbas made his remarks on the same day that he was hosting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who expressed support for Abbas.

Abbas and Haniya agreed in principle on Sept. 11 to form a unity government in an effort to find a way out of the worsening political and economic crisis facing the Palestinians.

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