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Palestinian President Abbas in Syria to Discuss Middle East Peace, Strife Among Palestinian Factions

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, met in Damascus Sunday to discuss the Middle East peace process and efforts to reconcile Palestinian factions.

But Mr. Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeina ruled out any meeting between the Palestinian president and his chief rival - the leader of the militant Hamas group, Khaled Meshaal.

A Hamas official criticized the decision and said it shows that the Palestinian leader is complying with what the official called the American stance that rejects a dialogue.

Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip a year ago during deadly fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Mr. Abbas.

Sunday's meeting comes as Syria and Israel are holding indirect peace talks via Turkish mediators after an eight-year break.

None of the parties released details about what was discussed in negotiations last week in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The talks center on the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.

Syria demands that Israel withdraw fully from the Golan. Israeli leaders have not said if they will agree to such a move, but have spoken of the need to make tough concessions.

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