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Hamas plays down chances of Fatah talks succeeding

21/03/2008 - 14:36

GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas expressed doubt on Friday that Yemeni-sponsored reconciliation talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's 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, therival Palestinian factions agreed to meet on Saturday and makea further push for a breakthrough.

"Fatah is trying to avoid reaching an agreement by allpossible means," said Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in the GazaStrip, which the Islamist group seized in June after routingAbbas's Fatah forces.

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

Abbas told reporters after meeting the Russian foreignminister in the West Bank city of Ramallah that the talks withHamas had "failed" so far.

But referring to Saturday's talks, Abbas added: "We do notwant to predict a failure. We hope for good results."

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

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

The plan also envisages the creation of another unitygovernment and rebuilding of Palestinian security forces alongnational rather than factional lines.

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

Members of Fatah's delegation announced on Thursday thatthey would stay another day at Yemen's request.

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

(Reporting Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Haitham Tamimi inRamallah; Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Tim Pearce)


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