March 12, 2008 / 2:45 PM / 11 years ago

Yemen seeks solution to Fatah-Hamas rift

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - A Hamas leader and representatives of the Fatah-dominated PLO plan separate visits to Yemen to discuss Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s initiative to reconcile the rival Palestinian groups.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will send envoys to Yemen on Monday to accept the plan, Saleh Ra’fat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee, said on Wednesday.

“The Yemeni initiative calls on Hamas to retract its (Gaza) coup and accept the PLO’s agreements (with Israel) and early presidential and parliamentary elections,” said Saleh Ra’fat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee.

Hamas Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip in fighting against Abbas’s Fatah faction in June. After the takeover, Abbas fired the Hamas-led Palestinian government and appointed a new Western-backed cabinet in the West Bank.

He has won widespread Arab approval for conditioning talks with Hamas on its handing back control of the Gaza Strip and approving early elections.

Palestinian officials and Arab diplomats said Khaled Meshaal, seeking to amend the Yemeni ideas, would head a Hamas delegation to Yemen but leave the country before the PLO representatives arrive.

“Hamas is seeking to change the initiative,” said Ra’fat. “We will convey to President Saleh the president’s acceptance of the Yemeni initiative.”

Hamas has publicly welcomed the Yemeni proposal but has said it rejects conditional talks.

“We are still committed to dialogue, but a non-conditional dialogue. Let’s sit around one table ... let’s open all issues,” Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, said in a speech on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, editing by Dominic Evans

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