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Palestinian Groups to Discuss Cease-Fire During Cairo Meeting - 2003-12-01

A high-level meeting of Palestinian groups is scheduled to take place in Cairo this week, where the issue of a possible cease-fire will be discussed. But at least one radical Palestinian group says it will oppose an end to hostilities against Israel.

On Thursday, 12 Palestinian factions are scheduled to meet in Cairo at the request of the Egyptian government to discuss, among other things, halting attacks against Israelis as a way to help revive peace negotiations.

Palestinian officials have been trying to persuade the factions to end their hostilities in an effort to secure a cease-fire with Israel.

On Monday, a representative from the mainstream Palestinian Fatah movement, Zacharia al-Agha, was quoted as saying he was hopeful the meeting in Cairo would lead to the calling of a truce with Israel.

The hard-line Palestinian movement Hamas said Monday it will be sending a delegation to Cairo from Beirut as part of what it called a civilized way to resolve conflicts.

However, according to Hamas spokesman Osama Abu Hamden, the group is not interested in discussing the possibility of a cease-fire.

"It's not the issue of stopping targeting the Israelis, because they are targeting us," he said. "And, so I believe the issue must not be a cease-fire. It must be how to protect the Palestinian people, how to protect the Palestinian rights, how to work together as Palestinians to gain those rights. It's not a good time to talk about a cease-fire. Before talking about any kind of cease-fire, we have to hear about the Israeli position toward their attacks against Palestinians, to stop their actions against the Palestinians."

Mr. Hamden says that while Hamas representatives will listen to discussions regarding a cease-fire, they will oppose any effort to end hostilities against Israel.

Hamas is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, as is the radical Islamic group, Jihad, which is also sending representatives to Thursday's meeting.

A similar meeting was held in Cairo last June that resulted in a cease-fire, but hostilities soon resumed.