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Hamas says ready to hold talks with Fatah in Yemen

Written by: Staff

DAMASCUS, June 6 (Reuters) Hamas is ready to hold talks with its rival Palestinian Fatah group to solve a political crisis in response to a mediation effort by Yemen, a senior Hamas official today said.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has offered to host talks between the two groups, which are locked in a power struggle in the Palestinian territories, Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' deputy politburo chief, said.

''We don't know if Fatah has accepted, but Hamas is ready to hold talks in Yemen at the highest level,'' Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas' exile leadership in Syria, told Reuters.

''We are ready to travel to Yemen immediately once Fatah agrees on holding the talks,'' he said.

Relations between Hamas and Fatah deteriorated after Hamas won Palestinian elections in January and formed a government isolated by the West for its refusal to recognise the Jewish state and its rejection of peace deals with Israel accepted by Fatah when it was in power.

Hamas also opposes holding a referendum on a statehood manifesto implicitly recognising Israel. The poll was recently proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas, who is from Fatah, today gave Hamas several more days to agree to the referendum.

The referendum would test popular support for the two-month old government and its policy towards Israel, which has prompted the West to impose crippling sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

Reuters DKS VV1810

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