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Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip was "destructive" to the quest for a Palestinian state and reiterated his rejection of any talks with the Islamic group.
"What Hamas did was destructive," Abbas told reporters, after his talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria. "Hamas helped all the enemies of the Palestinian people and those who don't want a Palestinian state."
"If Hamas wants any dialogue, it must reverse all that it did in the Gaza Strip," Abbas said.
The two leaders agreed that Israel and the PA must formulate a detailed framework of a peace deal before the US-sponsored Middle East summit in the fall.
Meanwhile, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) leader Nayef Hawatmeh said that the situation in Gaza would not change unless Hamas itself decided to reverse it.
Following a meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah al-Khatib in Amman, Hawatmeh said that Hamas was not planning to impose Islamic rule on Gazans but would "focus its efforts on spreading Islamic culture and bolstering the tradition values in Palestinian society."
Earlier Wednesday, Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal urged Yemen to work to secure a national agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
In making his request, Mashaal accused "Israel and other international organizations" of "seeking to deepen the tear between the two groups."
Mashaal was speaking upon his arrival in San'a where he was set to meet Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Meanwhile, Al-Aharam reported that Egypt was planning to work to renew negotiations between Hamas and Fatah.
The report came after Fatah and Hamas officials said Tuesday that they were conducting secret talks in a bid to patch up their differences following Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Tuesday evening they did not have any information about secret Fatah-Hamas talks, but that Olmert made it clear to Abbas on Monday that Israel strongly opposed a renewal of negotiations that would lead to another united Palestinian government.
The sources said Hamas-Fatah talks could have severe "diplomatic ramifications," and that Israel would again cut off contact with a PA government that included Hamas.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday he was prepared to step down to pave the way for the resumption of the Hamas-Fatah talks. This was the first time he had made such a statement since Hamas's takeover.
Haniyeh told Palestinian journalists he was convinced it was only a matter of time before the two parties returned to the negotiating table.
"There are attempts to open channels of communication between the two sides," he said. "At this moment, we can't talk about a real dialogue, but these attempts could develop into something positive."
One of the proposals being discussed calls for handing over all the security headquarters in the Gaza Strip to the Egyptian security forces as a first step toward resuming the dialogue.
Fatah officials here told The Jerusalem Post some Arab countries were involved in mediation efforts to resolve the crisis between Hamas and Fatah. They named Muhammad Jassem al-Saqer, a Kuwaiti national and speaker of the Arab Parliament, as the driving force behind the mediation efforts.
According to one official, the efforts were still at an early stage, and the talks between the two sides were being held in the West Bank, Beirut, Cairo and Damascus, as well as a number of Gulf capitals.
"The talks are being held at a low-level," the official said. "It's premature to talk about a breakthrough, but at least we are talking again."
Another Fatah official told the Post Russia was also involved in the mediation efforts. Noting that Abbas had visited Moscow recently, the official said the Russian government had made it clear to Abbas that President Vladimir Putin was keen on resolving the crisis between the two parties.
"The Russians informed Abbas that they were planning to invite senior Hamas representatives to Moscow for talks on ways of resolving the dispute," he said. "We are not opposed to the mediation efforts, but there are certain conditions that Hamas must fulfill before we move forward. Hamas must apologize for its coup and hand over all the security installations it occupied last June."
However, A-Shark Al-Awsat reported Wednesday that Abbas had rejected a Russian proposal to mediate between Hamas and Fatah.
Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a senior Fatah official and Abbas aide, said his faction was not opposed to launching a dialogue with Hamas. But, he said, Hamas must first recognize the legitimate authority of Abbas and retreat from its military coup.
"We want to hear from Hamas an apology for what they did in the Gaza Strip," Abdel Rahman said. "If they want to resume the dialogue with Fatah, they must first admit that they made a mistake when they staged a coup against the legitimate authority."
Ahmed Yusef, a political advisor to Haniyeh, confirmed that secret talks were being held with Fatah to resolve the crisis. He said representatives of various Palestinian political factions and some Arab governments were playing a major role in attempts to patch up differences between the two parties.
"These are behind-the-scenes talks that are being held far from the media to ensure their success," Yusef said. "Some Arab and Islamic countries are keen on restoring Palestinian national unity. They are making huge efforts to iron out differences between Ramallah and Gaza."
Asked if Hamas was prepared to apologize for its takeover of the Gaza Strip, Yusef said, "I see no reason for apologies. We might even reach a situation where the brothers in Ramallah may have to apologize to Gaza and not vice versa."
Yusef said he was convinced Abbas was interested in talking to Hamas despite his harsh statements.
"We understand his anger following what happened in the Gaza Strip," he said. "We are aware that what happened came as a shock to Abbas and his team because they lost everything in the Gaza Strip."
The real problem, Yusef said, was with people surrounding Abbas who do not want him to talk to Hamas.
"These people are serving an American-Israeli agenda," he said. "They want to maintain the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and are working toward foiling any attempt to reach understandings between Fatah and Hamas."
Yusef expected the two parties to reach an agreement to end their differences within the next two months.
"We are beginning to feel that the mediation efforts are very serious," he said. "We are convinced that during this period we will able to strike a deal regarding political partnership between Fatah and Hamas."
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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