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Palestinian Factions to Attend Meeting in Cairo


At the invitation of the Egyptian government, Palestinian factions have agreed to attend a meeting in Cairo to discuss the future of the 28-month-old intifada. One of Egypt's goals in proposing the meeting was to discuss halting attacks against Israeli civilians. Some of the Palestinians invited have already said they are not coming to discuss a ceasefire.

Officials of the militant group Hamas and its rival Islamic Jihad announced Wednesday they would attend the talks in Cairo. They agreed only after the Egyptian government accepted their demand that all Palestinian factions be invited to the meeting.

The two groups said full attendance is critical if the decisions reached at the meeting are to accurately reflect the opinion of all Palestinians.

Egypt is hosting the talks with the hope they will result in an agreement to eventually bring an end to more than two years of Palestinian-Israeli violence. The unrest has resulted in the deaths of almost 3,000 people, mostly Palestinians.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he wants to see an end to Palestinian attacks against Israel.

Osama Hamdan is a top Hamas official in Beirut. His group, like Islamic Jihad, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department. Mr. Hamdan told VOA the Cairo talks will not produce a cease-fire.

"We are not talking about a cease-fire; we are talking about Palestinian aims to defend the Palestinians, first of all, and to reach the Palestinian goal which is, in general, forcing Israeli soldiers and forces to pull out of Gaza and West Bank," he said.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have insisted Israel withdraw from the Palestinian occupied territories before agreeing to any truce.

Mr. Hamdan says the upcoming meeting is important because it will be the first time all of the Palestinian factions will speak directly about the Palestinian situation and the intifada. The Palestinian talks are expected to begin in the next few days, possibly as early as Thursday.

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