Palestinian PM Calls for Unity Government

The Hamas-led Palestinian government on Sunday renewed calls for a "national unity" coalition with rival factions in a bid to stave off rising tensions among the groups that have severely weakened the new Islamic leadership.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh extended the offer during an emergency meeting with his rivals. The meeting came amid a growing rift with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party and a spike in violence with Israel.

"We affirmed the issue of forming a national unity government is under consideration," government spokesman Ghazi Hamad told reporters. "The door is open to Fatah," he said, adding that any alliance would require substantial dialogue.

Hamas controls a solid majority in parliament but has said it would like additional parties to join its government in the name of Palestinian unity.

It was unclear whether Fatah would accept the offer. Fatah officials have rejected similar offers since Hamas won January legislative elections, and the party did not attend Sunday's meeting. Fatah officials were not immediately available for comment.

Tensions have heightened in recent days since Haniyeh accused Abbas of trying to undermine the new government. Abbas aides have called Haniyeh's comments unacceptable.

The infighting, along with an Israeli offensive in the northern Gaza Strip, has compounded the troubles of Haniyeh's fledgling government, which is coping with a financial crisis that has left it broke and unable to pay the salaries of thousands of public sector workers.

Since taking office 2 1/2 weeks ago, Hamas has come under intense international pressure to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. Western donors have cut off tens of millions of dollars in direct aid, and Israel has suspended the transfer of tax it collects for the Palestinians.

Iran's government announced Sunday that it would contribute $50 million to the Palestinian Authority, but that is only a small fraction of the money that has been cut off. Israel alone funneled in about $55 million a month in tax revenues.