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Palestinian talks are inconclusive

Abbas and Hamas chief fail to resolve obstacles to forming a unity government. They plan to meet again soon.

January 22, 2007|From the Associated Press

DAMASCUS, SYRIA — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the exiled chief of the rival Hamas faction failed Sunday night to resolve their differences over forming a unity government, dashing hopes for a quick end to deadly clashes between their supporters.

But Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said in a statement that they had "achieved major progress" during their first meeting since July 2005, and that they hoped to resume talks within two weeks.

"There are still points of disagreement, but we will try to resolve them through a national dialogue until we form a national unity government," Meshaal said during a joint news conference with Abbas in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The two sides stressed that recent Palestinian fighting, which has killed at least 62 people, was unacceptable and pledged to work to end the combat.

"Palestinian bloodshed was considered totally prohibited, and we must exert all efforts to avoid frictions and internal clashes," Abbas said.

Neither leader provided details on the differences that remained.

The thorniest issues have been control of the two factions' security forces and Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel or commit to the previous accords Palestinians signed with the Jewish state.

An official of Abbas' Fatah party in the Gaza Strip was optimistic about the meeting, saying that Abbas and Meshaal agreed to let an independent politician run the Interior Ministry, though they did not agree on who it should be.

"I think some things were accomplished. Some issues were resolved and others remain problematic. That would need continuation of dialogue here in Gaza and mediation in Damascus," said Abdel Hakim Awad, Fatah's spokesman in Gaza.

Hamas, which controls the Palestinian parliament and Cabinet, and Abbas' more moderate Fatah movement have been stuck in political deadlock since Hamas' victory in legislative elections a year ago. Abbas was elected president a year earlier.

The refusal of the Islamic militants in Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist led to Western sanctions that have paralyzed the Palestinian economy.

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