Palestinian talks in Yemen seen stalled

22/03/2008 - 22:43

SANAA (Reuters) - Reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas appeared to have stalled on Saturday, as the two sides wrangled over proposals about the future of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Under a draft agreement from the Yemen-sponsored talks,Hamas and Fatah would have agreed to hold negotiations in earlyApril about a Yemeni plan calling for the situation in the GazaStrip to return to the way it was before Hamas took it over.

A Hamas official said the group asked that the same shouldapply to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Fatah-ledPalestinian Authority has dismissed a Hamas-led government andarrested some Hamas supporters.

"We believe that what happened in Gaza is connected toevents in the West Bank ... We need to remedy the situation inthe whole of the Palestinian scene," top Hamas negotiatorMoussa Abu Marzouk told Al Jazeera television from Sanaa.

But senior Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed rejected theHamas demand to include the West Bank. "Nothing has changed inthe West Bank ... We accept this (Yemeni) proposal withoutchanging a word of it," he told the television.

Yemeni mediators will meet both delegations again onSunday, a Yemeni official said. A Hamas official confirmed thegroup's team would meet Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh ina last-ditch effort to salvage the talks.

The issue of the future of Gaza has been a main point ofcontention, with Fatah demanding that Hamas Islamists give upcontrol of the territory, which the group seized in June afterrouting Fatah forces.

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 and Wafa Amr in Ramallah; Writing by FirouzSedarat)

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