Palestinian talks in Yemen await Hamas response

22/03/2008 - 16:46

SANAA (Reuters) - Reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas hinge on Hamas' response to a proposal about the future of the Gaza Strip, the Yemeni foreign minister said on Saturday.

Under the draft agreement from the Yemen-sponsored talks,Hamas and Fatah would agree to hold direct talks in early Aprilabout a Yemeni plan calling for the situation in the Gaza Stripto return to the way it was before Hamas took it over.

The issue has been a main point of contention, with Fatahdemanding that Hamas Islamists give up control of theterritory, which the group seized in June after routing Fatahforces.

"A final formula was reached and Fatah agreed to it ... Ourbrothers in the Hamas movement asked for an opportunity toconsult their (leadership)," Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbitold reporters.

A Hamas official said: "The main stumbling block is Fatah'sinsistence that Hamas cease its control of the Gaza Strip.

The plan also envisages Palestinian elections, the creationof another unity government and a rebuilding of Palestiniansecurity forces along national 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.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Additional reporting by Nidalal-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Firouz Sedarat)

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