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Fatah, Hamas in Cairo for Gaza Border Talks


The leaders of the two main rival Palestinian factions are in Cairo for talks on the crisis at the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Egyptian authorities view the open border as a security risk and want to reach a solution as quickly as possible. But Hamas and Fatah are showing little willingness to compromise. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from Cairo.

In an effort to solve the border crisis, Egyptian officials held urgent talks in Cairo with officials from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and with leaders of the Hamas movement that controls Gaza. But the hostility between the two groups was evident. Each side issued angry statements criticizing the other and expressing their determination not to compromise on their demands.

The Hamas delegation was led by the group's Damascus-based political-leader Khaled Meshaal, who stopped for talks in Saudi Arabia before arriving in Egypt. He met with senior Egyptian officials, including the influential intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Separately, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Afterward, he angrily rejected the idea of cooperating with Hamas in administering the border.

He said, "There is no 'Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.' There is only one Palestinian authority. He called Hamas "illegitimate" and "subversive," and he ruled out the idea of talks with the group.

Egypt is anxious to have a quick solution to the border crisis and has been pressing Fatah to reach a compromise with Hamas.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri quickly condemned Mr. Abbas's remarks.

He called the statement "inappropriate" and said it does not help the atmosphere for dialogue.

He and other Hamas officials insist the group wants to negotiate a new arrangement for operating the border crossing, one in which Hamas would have a major role.

Mr. Abbas said he will not accept any new agreements. He demanded a return to the previous border deal recognized by Israel and the international community, in which Egypt and the Fatah-Ied Palestinian Authority ran the Rafah crossing with oversight by European Union monitors.

He said Fatah is ready to take control of the border.

It is not clear how Fatah would actually do that, since the group was routed from Gaza and fled to the West Bank when Hamas violently took over the territory in June. Since then, the border had been almost entirely shut down until last week, when militants knocked down large sections of the barricade dividing Egypt from the Gaza Strip, after several days of an Israeli blockade.

With the two Palestinian factions holding seemingly irreconcilable positions on the border issue it is not clear how the crisis can be solved.

Analyst Abdel-Alim Mohammed of the AI-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies recommends dialogue with Hamas.

He said it might be possible to persuade Hamas to accept a symbolic role in administering the border. But in any case, he said, the issue remains the main obstacle to progress in the talks.

Egyptian state media are reporting that Egyptian security forces will move to completely seal the border in the next few days. The state-run AI-Ahram newspaper said the beginning of next week will be the last chance for Gazans to return home.

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