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Palestinian Factions Agree to First Direct Talks Since Gaza Takeover


Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed to hold their first direct talks since Hamas militants seized control of the Gaza Strip nine months ago.

Fatah and Hamas representatives signed a declaratio n Sunday in the Yemeni capital, San'a, agreeing to the talks. The two sides had been meeting separately with Yemeni mediators to discuss a plan for Palestinian reconciliation.

In a joint statement, Fatah and Hamas said they accept the Yemeni initiative as a framework for talks aimed at returning the Palestinian situation to what it was before recent events in Gaza.

The statement referred to the Hamas seizure of Gaza in June 2007, in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Abbas denounced the takeover as a coup and had insisted Hamas give up control of Gaza before talks can resume.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh attended today's signing of the Fatah-Hamas agreement. He has been pushing both sides to begin direct talks in April, but no date was announced.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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