Hamas and their rivals in Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction agreed on Sunday that general elections for both Gaza and the so-called "West Bank" will be held prior to January 2010.
The Associated Press reported that the two sides came to the agreement during talks in Cairo, but remained divided on the make-up of a unity government to rule the Palestinians during the intervening months.
Hamas, which won the last Palestinian general election, but felt forced to militarily seize control of Gaza after Abbas prevented the group from effectively running the government, insists that it must be prominently represented in the unity cabinet.
Abbas wants the cabinet to be made up solely of independent candidates acceptable to both parties.
Abbas hopes that compromise will also satisfy the Obama Administration, which is ready to push Israel hard on the establishment of a Palestinian state, but has said it will not work with a Palestinian government run by Hamas.
But polls show that following the upcoming election, the US and the rest of the international community will have no choice but to either treat with Hamas or abandon the Palestinian Authority, as Hamas is predicted to win both the legislative vote and the race for the presidency.
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