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'Abbas to Hold Talks with Hamas after Annapolis'

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas told Sudan's president he will talk with Hamas after the Annapolis summit, reports Al Hayat. Abbas denies the report.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 10/13/2007, 7:06 PM

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the Palestinian Authority's chairman and head of the Fatah terror group, has agreed to resume a dialogue with rival terror group Hamas after the Annapolis conference, according to a report Saturday in Al Hayat. Abbas has denied the report.

According to the report, which is based on sources within Hamas, Egypt will host the talks between Hamas and Fatah.

"Many Arab countries tried to mediate and convince Abu Mazen to hold the talks between the two movements, but he asked for a postponement each time," the sources told Al Hayat. Recently, they said, when Abbas met with Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, the latter pleaded with him persistently about the need for a dialogue, and Abbas finally did agree to initiate it.

Cairo to host talks
Khartoum was quick to turn to Cairo and ask it to host the talks, because it sees Egypt as the country with the greatest ability to manage the Palestinian issue, according to the report. The Sudanese president's representative, Mustafa Othman Ismail, will also take a leading role in the talks.

The sources added that secret contacts have been held lately with both Fatah and Hamas in an
"Sudan's president pleaded with him persistently about the need for a dialogue, and Abbas agreed."
attempt to test the waters for a possible dialogue. "Several meetings were held with influential figures in Fatah and Hamas, but they were held informally," they said. "Each side is trying to find out about the other's expectations, but these meetings are still continuing behind the scenes, because exposing them will complicate the situation."

The dialogue is to focus on the points of conflict between the two terror organizations, and about the reorganization of the Palestinian Authority's "security apparatus." The sources estimated that the talks would not be concluded quickly, "because of the complexity of the situation and what happened on the ground," a reference to the recent war between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza.

Abbas's denial
Abbas denied the reports in a meeting he held on the Sabbath with MK Efraim Sneh (Labor), who until recently served as Israel's deputy defense minister. After the meeting, Sneh reported that he had told Abbas he was concerned about the news about an impending Fatah-Hamas dialogue, and that Abbas promptly denied the reports. "My meeting with Abu Mazen was held behind closed doors, but he specifically agreed that I make this denial public," Sneh said. "Abu Mazen said categorically: 'The Sudanese initiative is unacceptable to us. I will not renew the dialogue with Hamas.'"

The leadership in Israel and the US favors a dialogue with Abbas, whom they consider a "moderate," and are convinced that he will not renew talks with Hamas, which they see as being a terrorist organization.

Al Hayat is considered to be the leading international Arabic language newspaper. It is published in 160,000 copies in London, New York, Frankfurt, Cairo, Bahrain and Beirut. It is said to have a more liberal and critical approach than most of the newspapers which are only published inside Arab countries.