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Abbas, Hamas leaders plan to meet this week

From Ben Wedeman
CNN

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- A week after Hamas wrested control of the Palestinian parliament from the Fatah Party, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has not officially called on the Islamic fundamentalist group to form a government.

But Palestinian sources said Wednesday that Abbas plans to meet with Hamas leaders in Gaza either Friday or Saturday.

It's unclear what the topic of discussion will be, the sources said.

Last week, in the first Palestinian election in 10 years, Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats in the parliament. Fatah, which has dominated Palestinian politics for four decades, felt a backlash from voters, winning only 43 seats.

Abbas, the Fatah leader, has faced demands from party supporters to step down after the election defeat.

Hamas officials have urged members of Fatah to join it in a unity government for the Palestinians, but so far Fatah officials have rejected those calls.

Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, was due to confer with Egyptian officials in Cairo before meeting with Hamas officials.

Behind the scenes, Egyptian officials were talking with both sides following Hamas' surprise victory.

On Tuesday, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman met with exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, Syria. Suleiman said he called on Hamas to renounce violence so that it can form an effective government.

The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and, so far, Hamas leaders have rejected calls for the group to renounce violence.

Its military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has carried out attacks against Israeli civilians as well as the Israeli military.

President Bush has said that the United States will not deal with any group that favors the destruction of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "Israel 100 percent supports [Bush's] message that any individual, any group, that rejects Israel's right to exist, conducts terrorist operations against innocent civilians cannot be considered a legitimate partner for any political dialogue."

The United States, European Union and Israel list Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Hamas also has operated a network of social and charitable organizations for Palestinians.

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