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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Palestinian factions begin unity meeting in Cairo

Wed, 11 Mar 2009 00:08:51 GMT      |     PressTV

Azzam al-Ahmed of the Fatah delegation (right) and Mahmoud Zahar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, talk during a press conference following their meeting in Cairo.
Hamas and Fatah have begun a marathon effort in Cairo to resolve major disputes and discuss formation of a national unity government.

The talks, expected to last for ten days between senior officials from Hamas and Fatah and smaller factions, were due to start work in five reconciliation committees, which they agreed to form last month in the Egyptian capital. 

Addressing the meeting, which began on Tuesday, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the mediator of the talks, called on the groups to set aside misunderstandings and work for reconciliation. He also warned them of the consequences of failure in the talks, saying such an opportunity would not come again.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit warned that if the chasm between the factions increases, there is every possibility that the international donors will drop their support for the Palestinian cause. 

Last month, donors pledged $4.5 billion in aid for reconstruction in the impoverished coastal strip but have refused to deal with the Hamas government. 

Israel's devastating 23-day onslaught on Gaza, which ended on January 18, left about 1,340 Palestinians dead and over 5,450 injured, including hundreds of women and children. 

The committees formed by Hamas and Fatah are tasked with creating a unity government, reforming the security services, organizing new presidential and parliamentary elections, and cementing reconciliation. 

Hamas and Fatah officials said the work of the committees will be carried out gradually over the course of the year. 

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