Abbas meets Hamas officials, talks not imminent

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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 2 (Reuters) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Hamas officials in the West Bank today but reiterated he would not hold formal reconciliation talks with the Islamist group unless it gives up control of Gaza.

Hamas forces routed Abbas's secular Fatah faction in violent clashes in Gaza in June. Abbas then sacked a Hamas-led government and appointed a Fatah-backed administration in the West Bank.

''I met with Hamas officials and told them there would be no dialogue with Hamas until they reverse their coup first,'' Abbas told Reuters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abbas said he met Hamas lawmaker Hussein Abu Kwaik and a Hamas-backed former government minister, Naser el-Deen al-Shaer.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said two other Hamas members were also present at the meeting at Abbas's presidential compound in Ramallah.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters in Gaza Abbas had invited the group to his compound for prayers, but said the meeting was not linked to dialogue between Hamas and Fatah.

''The prayers in the Muqata came after an invitation by Abbas to some Islamist figures, including some Hamas officials. It was not linked to any kind of dialogue between Hamas and Fatah.'' Last month Hamas said it was ready to hold reconciliation talks with Fatah and hinted it might be ready to give up control of the Gaza Strip. But Fatah ruled out talks unless Hamas first cedes control of the coastal territory.

Israel has warned that dialogue between Fatah and Hamas could torpedo a peace deal with the Jewish state, which Palestinians hope will lead to statehood.

REUTERS RKM PM1720

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