Chris McGreal

Jerusalem: Hamas has made a major political climb down by agreeing to sections of a document that recognise Israel's right to exist and a negotiated two-state solution, according to Palestinian leaders.

In a bitter struggle for power, Hamas is bowing to an ultimatum from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to endorse the document drawn up by Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails, or face a national referendum on the issue that could see the Islamist group stripped of power if it loses.

Wrangling over unity

But final agreement on the paper, designed to end international sanctions against the Hamas Government that have crippled the Palestinian economy, has been slowed by wrangling over a national unity administration and the question of who speaks for the Palestinians.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee and a lead negotiator on the prisoners' document, said Hamas had agreed to sections which call for a negotiated and final agreement with Israel to establish a Palestinian state on the territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.

``Hamas is prepared to accept those parts of the document because they think it is a way to get rid of a lot of its problems with the international community. That's why it will accept all the document eventually,'' he said.

Hamas, facing a deep internal split over recognition of the Jewish state, declined to discuss the negotiations in detail.

If it formally approves the document, it will represent a significant shift from its founding goal of replacing Israel with an Islamic state and its more recent position of agreeing a long-term ceasefire, if a Palestinian state is formed on the occupied territories but without recognising the Jewish state. Mr. Rabbo said he expected an agreement in the coming days.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006