Palestinian Fatah delegation expected in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials¤

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May 26, 2007 23:26
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By OMAR SINAN CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Envoys of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' party traveled Saturday to Egypt for talks with Egyptian officials over the Mideast crisis and ongoing Palestinian infighting, senior Fatah officials said. It was not exactly clear when the talks would take place and whether there would also be encounters between the moderate Fatah and the militant Hamas Palestinian group, which was expected to send a delegation here Sunday. Egypt's state run news agency, MENA, cited Maher Miqdad, a prominent Fatah official in Gaza, as saying a Fatah team was en route to Cairo for Egypt-hosted talks on shoring up the delicate cease-fire with the Jewish state, as well as discussing internal Palestinian issues. The head of the Egyptian security delegation in Gaza said Friday that Hamas and Fatah officials would hold separate talks with Egyptian mediators, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Meanwhile, a Hamas' representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told the Qatar based Al-Jazeera television that the talks with the Egyptians would also discuss the Palestinian "political system and (try) to open the road for the national unity government to work." Hani Jabbour, a Palestinian official at the Rafah border checkpoint, confirmed Saturday that Fatah's delegation passed through the border crossing into Egypt. Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti told the Saudi owned Al-Arabiya TV channel that the Palestinians now face "heavy duty and a demanding issue" and that it would be better if Hamas also participated in the talks with the Egyptians. Abbas and Hamas's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met on Wednesday for the first time since fierce Hamas-Fatah fighting that has killed more than 50 Palestinians broke out two weeks ago, in efforts to restore a cease-fire with Israel that collapsed under a barrage of Hamas rocket fire. The Palestinian sides reached a truce over the weekend but tensions remain high because a key dispute over control of the security forces remains unresolved. Israel staged an offensive Saturday aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israeli border towns, firing missiles at five Hamas targets, killing four people and wounding six. The attack came just hours after Gaza militants floated the idea of halting their rocket fire if Israel ends its 10-day air campaign. The meetings in Cairo are also expected to focus on how to revive the cease-fire. The U.S. ally Egypt is a regional heavyweight which regularly mediates in the Palestinian crisis and is considered a party that could reconcile the Palestinians, whose infighting has further stalled negotiations for a broader settlement with Israel.

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