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Skepticism Surrounds Senegalese President's Mediation Effort

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade met with envoys from the Islamist group Hamas and the more secular Palestinian movement Fatah in an attempt to lay the groundwork for eventual peace with Israel. But at least one analyst is skeptical about Mr. Wade's bold statements about his mediation attempt for peace in the Middle East. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar.

In his role as chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, met in recent days with delegates from Hamas and Fatah in Dakar.

The Senegalese president also called for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, who ended more than 40 years of Fatah's unchallenged leadership of the Palestinian people with parliamentary victories in 2006. Hamas fighters then wrested power from Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

At an OIC conference in March in Dakar, Mr. Wade said he would make efforts to end the Middle East conflict his number-one priority.

An editorial on the popular English-language Arab News Web site pointed to these meetings as well as recent comments by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as a sign of movement toward peace.

But the director of advocacy at the U.S.-headquartered Open Society Institute, analyst Ibrahima Kane, says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is much too complex for Mr. Wade to make a real impact.

"It has political, social, cultural even historical aspects and if you do not know these different dimensions, it will be really, really, very difficult to sort it out. Even the Americans, who are very close allies of the Israelis, and who are trying to really put all their power into the discussion are not succeeding," said Kane. "So I am really doubtful that a small country like Senegal with a controversial president will succeed where the other powerful countries have failed."

Mr. Wade has gained notoriety recently when he said the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization should be scrapped for, in his words, treating Africans like beggars.

Kane says the Senegalese president should focus on his country's own problems, such as the more than two-decade insurgency in the Casamance region and food security.

He says if Mr. Wade wants to mediate outside his country, it should be in Africa.

"Even Africa has many, many complex, difficult problems that necessitate the involvement of the government of Senegal, like the current situation in Somalia. All of Zimbabwe is falling apart," said Kane. "There are many, many. Chad is a problem. Chad, Wade tried to sort out the problem but failed. So I think our president needs to learn lessons before getting involved in another big, big problem, which will eventually require a lot of resources, which Senegal does not have actually."

Mr. Wade has also tried to help with mediation efforts in Zimbabwe since last year, and prior to that in divided Ivory Coast, without much success.

Opposition activists in Senegal were disappointed in the recent Islamic summit, saying it brought some attention to Dakar and a little prestige to the president, but not much needed aid for other Senegalese.