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Abbas defends unity deal against US criticism

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought Monday to defend his new unity government with the militant Hamas movement, saying criticism by U.S. President Barack Obama represented a "wrong understanding" of the deal.

Abbas' comments followed talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Jordanian capital and were noted in a royal palace statement.

They were his first remarks on major speeches the U.S. president delivered in recent days.

Last week, Obama outlined his policy on the Middle East, roiled by popular Arab uprisings, and endorsed Israel's 1967 boundaries as the basis of negotiations for a future Palestine.

Hoping to revive stalled Israel-Palestinian peace talks, Obama addressed the powerful Jewish lobby group, AIPAC, in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. He repeated a request for the Palestinians drop their plans to appeal for U.N. recognition and raised concerns about an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.

Abbas said that there was a misunderstanding of the unity government with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

"There is a wrong understanding of the government, that it is a power-sharing government between Fatah and Hamas," he told reporters after talks with Abdullah.

Abbas, who heads the moderate Fatah faction, added: "The government is my government and it follows my strategies and policies."

He also said the two sides were working to form "a technocratic government." He did not provide further details.

For his part, Abdullah "affirmed" the national reconciliation agreement, according to the palace statement.

He said the agreement presents a "positive step" toward uniting the Palestinian people and enabling them to regain their "legitimate rights to establish a state."

Palestinians hope the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation will end a split that has left rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians seek both areas, along with east Jerusalem, for their future state.

Israel has said a return to the 1967 borders would undercut its security.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the border issue should be the focus of Mideast diplomacy.

"Israel's recognition of the borders of 1967 as the borders for the two states is the only way to achieve peace in the region," he said. "The failure of Israel to do so would only mean that the peace process would be a waste of time and effort."

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AP writer Karin Laub contributed to this report from Ramallah, West Bank.