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Key talks between Fatah and Hamas postponed

A Fatah official announced Sunday the postponement of crucial talks between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, which were scheduled for Tuesday in Cairo. The groups are in disagreement over the transitional government.


AFP - Talks between president Mahmud Abbas, who heads Fatah, and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on a new Palestinian cabinet have been postponed, a Fatah official said on Sunday.

The two senior political figures were due to meet in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the make-up of an interim government of independents called for by a unity deal that rival factions Hamas and Fatah signed in Egypt last month.

The talks have reportedly stalled on the issue of who will head the transitional government, with Abbas championing his current prime minister Salam Fayyad for the job despite objections from the Islamist movement Hamas.

But Fatah representative Azzam al-Ahmed made no allusion to the reported difficulties on finding a consensus figure, saying only that the delay was intended to move the talks forward.

"The meeting has been postponed until a new date is set in the coming days in order to assure the best atmosphere for the successful implementation of the reconciliation agreement," he told AFP.

Ahmed said Fatah had requested the delay in the talks "to create the right atmosphere and because of the commitments that have come up on the president's schedule in Turkey."

He said Abbas would visit Turkey on Wednesday, though no additional details on the trip were immediately available.

In Gaza, Hamas government head Ismail Haniya played down any suggestion that a stalemate had led to the postponement.

"There is a possibility that the meeting between president Mahmud Abbas and Mr Khaled Meshaal, head of the political office of Hamas, will be delayed," he said in a statement.

"This is a sign of the seriousness of the discussions on the make-up of the government and who will head it."

Abbas and Meshaal were scheduled to meet after talks in Cairo last week between lower-level representatives from the two Palestinian factions failed to produce a final agreement on the government.

Under the terms of a unity deal signed by the two sides, they must agree on independent figures to make up a government that will lay the groundwork for legislative and presidential elections within a year.

The difficult negotiating process has raised fears that the fragile reconciliation could collapse prematurely after Fatah's central committee said it would nominate Fayyad to lead the next government.

Hamas has said it wants the next prime minister to come from Gaza, which Fayyad does not, and has rejected Fayyad outright, accusing him of ties to a government that persecuted members of the Islamist movement.

The reconciliation deal, which was cautiously welcomed in the international community but roundly rejected by Israel, also contains several more potential stumbling blocks.

In addition to achieving consensus on a new government, the two sides must discuss ways to integrate their rival forces and negotiate the expansion of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which does not currently include Hamas.

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