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Abbas, Exiled Hamas Leader Set for Talks in Syria

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Syria for crucial talks with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on efforts to end months of Palestinian infighting.

Officials say the meeting between the two leaders Saturday will focus on efforts to form a unity government between Mr. Abbas' Fatah party and the Islamic militant group Hamas. They say they also will discuss ways to end violence between the two factions that has killed at least 35 people in recent weeks.

Mr. Abbas has said he will hold early elections if no progress is made toward forming a unity government.

Upon his arrival in Damascus, Mr. Abbas met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hamas' election victory last year resulted in the suspension of Western aid to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian leaders hope that forming a unity government will resume the flow of funds.

Western nations suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority because Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept prior agreements with the Jewish state. The Hamas charter calls for Israel's destruction.

Israel, the United States and European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

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