Abbas says Hamas in talks with Israel on Gaza

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DUBAI, Oct 25 (Reuters) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said today officials from the Islamist group Hamas were holding meetings with Israel to end the blockade of Gaza and ease access for goods and people.

Israel denied the meetings had taken place, saying there was a policy of avoiding contact with Hamas.

Asked by Al-Arabiya television if he was aware of such meetings, Abbas said: ''There are meetings taking place between Hamas and Israel, there were meetings held on Erez (crossing point) and there are ongoing meetings in other places.'' Abbas, speaking in the Jordanian capital Amman after talks with King Abdullah, gave no further details of the Gaza discussions.

Israeli Defence Ministry Official Shlomo Dror said: ''This is absolutely untrue. We do not have any meetings with Hamas. Indeed, there is a strict policy of avoiding all contacts with Hamas.'' ''The last meeting we held with Palestinians at Erez was with businesspeople who have no connections to Hamas. These were people known to us.

''We don't have security information on every single person. If we find out someone is from Hamas, we have nothing to do with him.'' Hamas seized control of the enclave in June after fighting with Abbas's security forces. Israel declared Gaza an ''enemy entity'' in September as the Islamist movement refused to halt firing makeshift rockets into Israel.

Israel has closed the Gaza border to everything but humanitarian supplies since Hamas routed Abbas's forces.

REUTERS SYU PM1843

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