Egypt sets new deadline for PA unity

Senior Fatah official says Cairo wants power sharing deal between rivals Fatah and Hamas by August 25.

Egypt has set August 25 as a new deadline for a power-sharing deal between Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah. Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said Sunday that Egyptian mediators will hold separate talks with both sides in coming weeks in hopes of narrowing the gap. Last week, Egypt temporarily suspended its mediation efforts after the two rival parties rejected Cairo's latest proposals for ending the conflict. A high-ranking Egyptian security delegation headed by Muhammad Ibrahim, a top General Intelligence official, visited Ramallah last week in what was described as a final bid to resolve the Hamas-Fatah feud. The delegation headed back to Cairo after failing to bridge the gap between the two sides, Fatah and Hamas officials told The Jerusalem Post. Al-Ahmed, who is closely associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, had said that the Egyptian team did not bring new proposals for solving the conflict. "They came with a few cosmetic changes to their original ideas," he said. "At one point we were very close to reaching agreement with Hamas, but something went wrong." He said that Fatah would never accept any deal that calls for the existence of two separate entities and governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said differences over the status of the Palestinian security forces and the possibility of forming a joint Hamas-Fatah police apparatus in the Gaza Strip were among the main reasons for the mediation efforts' failure. The two parties have also failed to resolve their differences on most of the outstanding issues, such as the political agenda of a unity government and holding new presidential and parliamentary elections, Ahmed said. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report