The Associated Press
February 2, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas headed to Paris on Monday to try to drum up diplomatic support for a unity government and to push for a role in rebuilding the war-shattered Gaza Strip, controlled by rival Hamas.

With scattered violence in Gaza straining an informal cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants, Abbas was expected to join French, U.S. and other officials in meetings aimed at finding sturdier solutions for Gaza.

Abbas was to hold talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped broker the Gaza cease-fire, as well as Qatar's prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani. The Gulf state has emerged as a regional mediator since helping to resolve a political crisis in Lebanon last year.

Earlier Monday, President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, met with Sarkozy's chief of staff before sitting down with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for lunch. Mitchell met with Abbas and other Palestinian officials last week.

Abbas' aides have said he is on a European tour with stops at EU parliament in Strasbourg, as well as is Britain, Italy, Turkey and Poland in hopes of gaining support for a Palestinian unity government that would likely have to involve Hamas but would also include independents as Cabinet ministers.

The Palestinian leader also wants international backing for his demands that he be given a role in Gaza reconstruction, and that his troops be deployed at the Gaza border crossings with Israel and Egypt.

Hamas, for now, is cool to both ideas. The militant group on Monday sent a delegation to Egypt in hopes of wrapping up a long-term cease-fire.

In Cairo on Sunday, Abbas told reporters he would not hold reconciliation talks with Hamas as long as it rejects his authority. The two sides have been divided since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007. Abbas' Fatah rules the West Bank.

Scattered violence has resumed in recent days after Israel ended a three-week offensive meant to halt rocket attacks on Israel and end weapons smuggling into Gaza. A missile from an Israeli aircraft struck a car traveling in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday, killing a Palestinian militant.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017