Sunday, January 28, 2007

Saudi King Invites Fatah, Hamas Leaders to Hold Talks in Mecca

By Paul Tighe

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah invited leaders of the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah to hold talks in Mecca to try to end fighting between their supporters in the Gaza Strip. The king issued his invitation yesterday, saying the leaders should ``discuss the issues between them in an objective manner without any interference from outsiders,'' the official Saudi Press Agency reported on its Web site.

Hamas and Fatah officials accepted the king's invitation, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported on its Web site, citing spokesmen for the groups. Hamas and Fatah have failed in attempts to form a national unity government since talks began last May, leading to violence that has killed 23 people since Jan. 24. The Hamas movement won control of the Palestinian Authority from Fatah in elections a year ago. Hamas appreciates, the ``generous position'' of King Abdullah, Haaretz cited Taher An-Nono, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry official, as saying.

``We are ready to go to the kingdom and to start talks,'' said Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, a Fatah official, according to the newspaper report. The latest fighting began five days ago causing the suspension of a new round of negotiations between Hamas and Fatah officials. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Dec. 16 that he may try to bring down the Hamas cabinet by calling early elections. Gunmen loyal to Hamas yesterday abducted the commander of the security forces in the central Gaza Strip, Haaretz reported, citing unidentified Palestinian security officials.

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