UN leader waits for details of Palestinian unity deal

UN leader waits for details of Palestinian unity deal United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has noted "with interest" a new unity deal between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah but is waiting for details of the accord, his spokesman said.

Ban discussed the deal on Saturday with Israeli Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who expressed concern about the involvement of Hamas in any Palestinian national unity government.

"With respect to Palestinian unity, the secretary general noted with interest the understanding reached between Fatah and Hamas as announced in Cairo," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky yesterday.

Ban "indicated that the United Nations would study the agreement carefully once the details were available" and took note of Israel's concerns, the spokesman added.

Israel on Sunday suspended the transfer of Palestinian tax and customs fees to the Palestinian Authority after the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal.

Barak said world leaders and the United Nations should "attach conditions to any cooperation with a Palestinian unity government" so that it is in line with Quartet demands for brokering a peace deal.

The diplomatic Quartet -- the United Nations, United States, Russia and European Union -- has demanded an end to violence and recognition of Israel as a state. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and a rocket attack on Israel last month killed one teenager.

Ban "underscored the need for progress towards Palestinian unity within the framework of the Palestinian Authority led by president Mahmud Abbas and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization," said the spokesman.

"He welcomed efforts towards that end, including the important contribution of Egypt." Ban said there must be "reconciliation" that promotes "peace, security and non-violence."

In his talks with Barak, Ban expressed "concern" at the impasse in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, frozen since September when Israel refused to renew a settlement moratorium.

"Continued drift was not desirable for both parties," the UN leader commented.