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French Version

Jordan, Egypt demand end to Palestinian infighting

Hamas, fatah near deal on statehood initiative

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II issued a stern message for an end to Palestinian bloody infighting and urged a resumption of stalled Mideast peace talks, the two countries' foreign ministers said.

The talks between Mubarak and Abdullah "concentrated on how to work to defuse current tension between Hamas and Fatah and how to lead the Palestinians toward a consensus ... that will prevent any clashes and take them to the land of safety," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit said after talks in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Abu al-Gheit and his Jordanian counterpart, Abdel-Ilah al-Khatib, described an EU aid mechanism for the Palestinians as positive but "limited."

"The scope of the mechanism [approved by the 'Quartet'] is limited, does not incorporate all the aid and has a limited time period," Abu al-Gheit said.

He nevertheless said that the mechanism was "a good step forward which must be built upon."

In remarks to Egyptian weekly Akhbar al-Yawm Saturday, Mubarak said his meeting with Abdullah was aimed at "sorting out differences" between Syria and Jordan, but Abu al-Gheit said "discussions were not around Syria but concentrated on the Palestinian question."

Mubarak is also due to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad Tuesday in Egypt.

Both Mubarak and Abdullah had met separately with Abbas Saturday and Sunday and conveyed their concerns over the Palestinian infighting.

The Arab diplomatic activity came amid talks between Palestinian factions over a plan drafted by Palestinian leaders jailed in Israel. It calls for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, and is considered by many to implicitly recognize the Jewish state.

Officials said Sunday that the factions are reaching agreement on a political platform that they could all accept. It would be based on the prisoners' proposal.

If such a deal is clinched, Abbas has indicated he will call off a July 26 referendum on the same proposal. The referendum announcement earlier this month sparked the most intense fighting to date between armed elements of Fatah and Hamas.

Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyya, said in a statement Sunday that "tangible progress has been made" in the talks on the initiative.

Fatah officials were equally upbeat in their response.

"We've agreed on almost all of the issues in the prisoners initiative and things are looking very positive," the Fatah spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khussa told AFP Sunday.

"There is an agreement on the document with reservations, but the movement is positive and I expect agreement by the beginning of next week," said a spokesman for Abdullah Ifranji, a Fatah politburo leader participating in the talks.

In talks with Abbas, Jordan's Abdullah urged Palestinian factions "to unite their ranks," and voiced "concern in the face of the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories." He stressed the need to halt "growing military tensions and calm the situation between Palestinians and Israelis to secure resumption of negotiations."

Neither Fatah nor Hamas officials elaborated on the remaining obstacles to an agreement.

But a possible face-saving formula could be a reference to "just Arab solutions," which could be interpreted as a nod toward an Arab League plan that offered Israel peace in exchange for a full withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and resolution of the right of return of refugees, a Palestinian official said on condition of anonymity.

Refugee Affairs Minister, Atef Adwan, told AFP that the government is weighing a proposal to step down, to be replaced by a government of independent technocrats if the economic blockade is not lifted.

"It could be a way out of the problems for the Palestinian people and it's being discussed but we haven't agreed to anything as of now," Adwan said.

Following Saturday's talks with Abbas, Mubarak also underscored the need for continued dialogue between Hamas and Fatah, said presidential spokesman Suleiman Awwad.

"The dialogue will yield results that are in harmony with international legitimacy, and will prove to the world that there is a Palestinian partner who is worth resuming negotiations with," Awwad said.

Awwad also said Mubarak was preparing to host a three-way summit bringing together the Israeli premier and Abbas.

Meanwhile, officials confirmed reports that Fatah had merged thousands of its foot soldiers into the Palestinian security services, in what could be seen as a preparation for future clashes with Hamas.

The Daily Star

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