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Friday, March 21, 2008

Hamas & Fatah still talking

 Last update - 15:46 21/03/2008

 Hamas doubts reconciliation talks with Fatah will succeed, despite extension  By Reuters 

Hamas expressed doubt Friday that Yemeni-sponsored reconciliation talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' secular Fatah faction would succeed, despite an agreement to extend the discussions for an extra day.

At the request of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the rival Palestinian factions agreed to meet on Saturday in a last-ditch push for a breakthrough.

"Fatah is trying to avoid reaching an agreement by all possible means," said Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, which the Islamist group seized in June after routing Abbas' Fatah forces.

Taha said Abbas was not interested in resuming talks with Hamas because of "an American veto".

Abbas told reporters after meeting the Russian foreign minister in the West Bank city of Ramallah that the talks with Hamas had "failed" so far.

But referring to Saturday's talks, Abbas added: "We do not want to predict a failure. We hope for good results."

The Yemeni proposal calls for the situation in the Gaza Strip to return to the way it was before the Hamas takeover and for Palestinian elections to be held.

The main point of contention appeared to be Fatah's demand, included in a Yemeni proposal, for Hamas to give up control of the Gaza Strip.

The plan also envisages the creation of another unity government and rebuilding of Palestinian security forces along national rather than factional lines.

Fatah has said it would agree to direct reconciliation talks with Hamas only if Hamas first consented to relinquish its hold on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

Abbas aides said Thursday that the negotiations had failed. But members of the delegation announced later that they would stay another day at Yemen's request.

When asked if he thought an agreement could be reached, Saleh Rafat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, said: "I don't think so."

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