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Thursday Feb. 4, 2010 12:44 PM (EST+7)
Hamas hosts Fateh leader for unity talks

Read more: Nabil Shaath, Fateh, Fatah, Hamas-Fateh conflict, Fateh-Hamas conflict, Palestinian politics

GAZA, Feb 3 (Nidal al-Mughrabi/ Reuters) - A leader of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fateh group traveled to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Wednesday for rare talks with the Islamist rival faction on an Egyptian-proposed reconciliation deal.

The trip by senior Fateh official Nabil Shaath followed a signal last week from Hamas, which is shunned by the West for refusing to recognize Israel, that it was willing to agree on new Palestinian elections and possible power-sharing.

Abbas, whose mandate is now limited to the Israeli-occupied West Bank after Hamas ejected Fatah from Gaza in a 2007 civil war, needs to find accommodation with the Islamist group to enable him to speak on behalf of all Palestinians.

I have come here backed by my movement Fatah to try to end the boycott (by Hamas), Shaath told reporters after arriving in Gaza.

The factions last met in July in Cairo. Since then, Egypt has applied pressure on Hamas by erecting a wall along the southern Gaza border to block tunnels that bring Palestinians weapons and commercial goods denied them by an Israeli-led blockade.

Hamas said initial discussions with Shaath had not yielded results, but it voiced hope for progress.

Further meetings will address all issues, the internal Palestinian situation, confidence-building measures and ways to achieve national reconciliation. We hope to achieve the results we aspire to, Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya told Reuters.

Hamas won a 2006 legislative election and a year later entered an uneasy coalition government with the secular Fateh.

Abbas dissolved that alliance after Hamas's Gaza takeover, which was triggered by factional tensions in the armed forces.

Central to the reconciliation talks are proposed elections in June. Hamas wants an Egyptian guarantee that the ballot's results will be respected.

Fateh officials hope to make a strong showing in their vote thanks to the relative prosperity of Palestinians in the West Bank, where Israel has eased restrictions on movement and commerce. Under embargo, Gaza has sunk into deep poverty. (Editing by Charles Dick)






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