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Mash'al: Hamas, Fatah in 'final stages' of reconcilliation

Jan. 3, 2010 3:19 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 5, 2010 10:16 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Hamas leader Khalid Mash'al said on Sunday the group was in the final stages of ending a power struggle with the rival Fatah movement after he held talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh.

"We achieved great strides toward achieving reconciliation," Mash'al told reporters at the Foreign Ministry during a visit to the Saudi capital, according to Reuters news agency. "We are in the final stages now."

He also reiterated that Hamas has points that it wants revised in an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation with Fatah.

"We all agree that the signing of the [reconciliation] will take place in Cairo," he said.

Reuters quoted Saudi officials saying Mash’al met with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal in connection with reconciliation efforts.

Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, signed the Egyptian proposal in October. Hamas did not, a fact noted by a Fatah official in responding to Mash'al on Sunday.

"If Mash'al means what he says, he should go to Egypt and announce his party's commitment to Palestinian reconciliation," Fatah PLC bloc chair Azzam Al-Ahmad told PA news agency WAFA.

Hamas, who won 2006 parliamentary elections, took full control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, shutting down security forces loyal to Abbas. The president then dissolved a unity government and appointed a caretaker administration in the West Bank.

Mash’al’s trip to Saudi Arabia followed a state visit by Abbas. US President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell will also visit the kingdom in the coming days, Reuters reported.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Ar-Rai which appeared on Sunday, Abbas criticized Hamas for not signing the Egyptian proposal, which called for new elections in June 2010.

He was also quoted as saying that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had information on Hamas plans to carry out acts of violence in the West Bank.

"We won’t let anybody, whether it was Hamas or others to damage our security," Abbas told Ar-Rai.

"When Hamas is able to take its own decisions, without external influence, reconciliation will be achieved," he added.

Also on Sunday Hamas and Fatah traded accusations of politically motivated arrests in their respective territories.

Fatah said that Hamas security forces arrested 13 members in northern Gaza.

Hamas also issued a statement saying Palestinian Authority security forces arrested 527 members of the party in December.
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