Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
October 5, 2008 - 8:00pm

A senior Hamas delegation is scheduled to arrive in Cairo Tuesday for talks with Egyptian officials on ways of ending the Hamas-Fatah power struggle.

Headed by Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, the delegation is expected to hold a series of meetings with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman and other senior Egyptian government officials over the next few days.

The visit to Cairo is the first of its kind by a high-level Hamas delegation in several months.

It follows a long period of tensions between the movement and Egypt over the continued closure of the Rafah border crossing and kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.

Hamas was invited to Cairo as part of Egypt's efforts to achieve "national reconciliation" among all the Palestinian factions.

In addition to Abu Marzouk, two other members of the delegation are also based in Syria: Izzat al-Risheq and Muhammad Nussur. Three other Hamas officials - Mahmoud Zahar, Said Siam and Khalil Abu Hayeh - are from the Gaza Strip.

In the past few weeks, the Egyptians held separate meetings with representatives of various Palestinian factions in a bid to persuade them to accept Egypt's proposals for ending the crisis.

The proposals call for the establishment of a new government consisting solely of independent figures, reconstructing the Palestinian security forces, ending Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip and reforming the PLO. They also call for holding new presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the coming months.

The Egyptians are hoping to bring all the Palestinian factions together at a conference in Cairo in the coming weeks. Both Hamas and Fatah have expressed their readiness to attend the parley.

However, Hamas officials on Monday voiced skepticism regarding the prospects of the success of the Egyptian efforts.

Zahar, the Hamas leader from the Gaza Strip, said that previous attempts to end the crisis failed "due to pressure from outside forces." He claimed that the US and Israel were exerting pressure on Fatah not to patch up its differences with Hamas.

Zahar did not rule out the possibility that Hamas would agree to the formation of a new government. But he added that his movement wanted to learn more about the proposed government from the Egyptians.

Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to the Hamas-controlled Foreign Ministry in the Gaza Strip, said the Cairo discussions provided a "last opportunity" for the Palestinian Authority to make a decisive decision.

"They either return from Cairo with good news, or they will evaporate together with the Oslo Accords that brought the Palestinian Authority," he said. "Today it's clear that the Palestinian Authority was responsible for the failure of the reconciliation efforts."

Osama Mazini, another top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, stressed that his movement would reiterate its strong opposition to PA President Mahmoud Abbas's attempts to extend his tenure beyond January 2009.

Abbas, whose term in office will expire on January 9, 2009, has expressed his desire to remain in office for an additional year - a move strongly opposed by Hamas and other Palestinians as a violation of the PA Basic law.

In a related development, the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council on Monday ruled that it would not recognize Abbas as president of the PA after the expiration of his term.

Faraj al-Ghul, chairman of the PLC Legal Committee, said it would be "unconstitutional" for Abbas to extend his term "even for one day" after January 9.


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