Palestines' Abbas, Meshaal begin talks in Qatar

AFP, Sunday 5 Feb 2012

Qatar hosts talks between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal to discuss the formation of an interim government of independents to oversee upcoming elections

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R), Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (2nd R) and other top Fatah and Hamas officials talk during their meeting in Cairo, November 24, 2011. (Photo:Reuters)

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal began talks in the Qatari capital Sunday on the formation of an interim Palestinian government and staging of elections, an official said.

The meeting was to explore the formation of "an interim government composed of independents to oversee the preparations for upcoming presidential and legislative elections," the Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In a statement to Qatari state news agency QNA, Fatah party spokesman Azzam Al-Ahmad said Abbas and Meshaal would "review and discuss" a wide range of issues related to implementing a reconciliation deal signed between the two factions in April.

Ahmad said the "stalled" peace talks with Israel would also be discussed at the meeting, which is being hosted by Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

Speaking to AFP earlier this week, Ahmad said Sunday's talks would address a planned Cairo meeting bringing together all Palestinian leaders, which had originally been set for 2 February, but was delayed indefinitely.

Ismail Haniya, Meshaal's rival, who heads the Hamas government in Gaza, was in Qatar earlier this week and is currently in Bahrain on the second leg of a Gulf tour that will also take him to Iran.

Meshaal has decided not to run again this summer for the leadership of Hamas amid signs of strain within the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

Under the terms of a reconciliation deal signed by Hamas and Abbas's secular Fatah movement last April, parliamentary and presidential elections are to be held by May.

However, implementation of the deal has been delayed on several occasions despite repeated meetings between the parties involved.

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