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Monday, December 25, 2006

Jordan to host Palestinian talks

Jordan to host Palestinian talks
Jordan is to host talks between the Palestinian Authority's president and prime minister to try to end violence between their factions, officials say.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniya had accepted an invitation from Jordan's King Abdullah, a spokesman for Mr Haniya's Hamas party said.

President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Jordan on Monday but no date has been set for the head-to-head meeting.

Factional fighting flared after Mr Abbas called for early elections.

His Fatah party lost elections last January to Hamas, which has denounced the new poll call as an attempted "coup".

Funds released

Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led government, said King Abdullah had invited Mr Haniya to discuss his "differences" with Mr Abbas.

"Haniya has welcomed the invitation. Arrangements are under way to agree on the date," Mr Hamad said.

A spokesman for the Jordanian government, which has been supportive of Mr Abbas but has had cool relations with Hamas, said the meeting was an attempt "to reinvigorate the peace process and solidify Palestinian national unity".

Jordan closed Hamas's offices in its capital, Amman, in 1999 and expelled its senior leadership.

Mr Abbas arrived in Jordan on Monday following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the first formal talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders for nearly two years.

The Israeli cabinet approved the release of $100m (£51m) in frozen Palestinian funds.

Mr Abbas travels to Egypt on Tuesday.

The Palestinian territories have seen renewed fighting between Hamas and Fatah militants since Mr Abbas's election call on 16 December.

The two leaders called for a second ceasefire last Wednesday after one three days earlier had failed.

Relations between Fatah and Hamas have been strained since Hamas won power.

A Western aid boycott imposed because of Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel or renounce violence has helped create a political deadlock.

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