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Hamas leader in Cairo to discuss prisoner exchange

Written by: Staff

DAMASCUS, Nov 23: Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal today arrived in Cairo to discuss Egyptian mediation efforts for a prisoner exchange between the Palestinian movement and Israel, a high-level Hamas member said today.

''The delegation, led by Khaled Meshaal, will follow up on Egyptian efforts to reach a deal acceptable to the Palestinian people,'' Izzat al-Rishq told Reuters.

A Hamas delegation visited Cairo last month for talks with Egyptian officials on a possible exchange of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier seized by militants in Gaza in a cross border raid in June.

But so far differences over the timing and number of prisoners involved have contributed to preventing a deal.

Hamas had demanded that Israel free 1,400 Palestinian prisoners, including all women and minors, simultaneously with the release of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Rishq said Meshaal will meet Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been handling the prisoner issue, and also discuss obstacles preventing formation of a Palestinian unity government.

Earlier this week Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the participation of his Hamas group in a unity government hinged on winning guarantees of a resumption of Western financial aid, suspended after Hamas came to power in March.

The Hamas delegation will discuss ''practical measures to lift the sanctions'' on the Palestinians, Rishq said.

''We want to inform our brothers in Egypt about the latest developments on the proposed unity government, and the difficulties facing its formation,'' he said.


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