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Hamas, Fatah begin talks in Saudi Arabia

Story Highlights

• Negotiations aimed at ending strife between Palestinian factions
• Talks being held in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia
• Fatah, Hamas differ in their approach to Israel
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MECCA, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his political rival, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, will negotiate details on forming a national unity Palestinian government during Wednesday's meetings in Saudi Arabia's holy city Mecca, Saudi officials said.

The meetings began shortly after midday prayers.

Abbas will offer Hamas his "agreement to forming a Palestinian government without a Fatah minister on the condition that it will accept all international agreements signed by previous Palestinian governments," Palestinian Parliament member Nabil Shaath told Arabic on Tuesday in an exclusive interview in Dubai.

The leaders of the two rival Palestinian militant groups met last month in Damascus, Syria. They have tried to cobble together a national unity Palestinian government but have failed in the attempt.

The Palestinian factions differ in their approach to Israel. While Fatah has attempted to negotiate peace with Israel, Hamas refuses to recognize the Jewish state.

Both leaders arrived in Jeddah on Tuesday and have met with King Abdullah, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and other Saudi officials.

The talks come amid agreements to an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of all militants from the streets in Gaza, where recent fighting between the factions has raged. (Watch how the factional fighting has fractured a family Video)

Hamas, which controls the Palestinian government, and Fatah, which used to run the government and now holds the presidency, want to restore a cease-fire that was hammered out earlier this week.

Officials at the meetings on Friday agreed to "strengthen" their cease-fire, which crumbled Thursday.

Two days of fighting since left 23 dead and more than 220 injured, Palestinian medical sources said. Forty people were critically injured and five of the injured are children.

Fatah's Rashid Abu Shbak, who is the commander of the Palestinian Internal Security, and Said Seyyam, who is the Palestinian interior minister of the Hamas government, were among those who were to participate in meetings.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he will participate in a three-way meeting with Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on February 19. (Full story)

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is affiliated with the Fatah group.




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