Last update - 06:50 23/11/2006
Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal arrives in Cairo for talks on Shalit
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters
Damascus-based Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal arrived in Cairo on Thursday for talks on a prisoner exchange deal involving captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.
The delegation consists of several senior Damascus-based Hamas leaders, including the director of Hamas' Damascus offices, Immad al-Alami, and Mohammed Nassar, a member of the group's political bureau.
The Hamas officials are expected to hold meetings with senior Egyptian officials, including Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
"The delegation, led by Khaled Meshal, will follow up on Egyptian efforts to reach a deal acceptable to the Palestinian people," a senior Hamas official, Izzat al-Rishq, told Reuters.
Arab media reported that Meshal's visit is a signals an agreement on an Egyptian draft proposal for the prisoner exchange deal.
A senior official close to the talks told Haaretz a few days ago that significant progress has been achieved recently, and said he expects the deal to be finalized by the end of December.
Meshal is considered key to any move forward on the issue of Shalit, as well as the thorny subject of the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government.
The Hamas leader failed to arrive several weeks ago for scheduled talks in Cairo with Egyptian negotiators.
The deal is expected to include an agreement on the formation of a Palestinian unity government.
Shalit was captured by several Gaza-based militant groups, including Hamas and Popular Resistance Committees, in a cross-border raid on June 25.