Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Mahmoud Abbas refuses to hold talks with Hamas

AGENCIES , CAIRO AND JERUSALEM

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' steadfast refusal on Wednesday to have any dealings with Hamas, despite pressure for a compromise solution to resolve the border crisis, has left the radical movement scrambling for some other way to maintain its influence on the frontier.

Abbas was in Cairo at the invitation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in effort to solve the week-old crisis at the border where Hamas militants had punched holes in the border in effort to end the long blockade of the Gaza Strip and force the region to recognize its importance.

Despite pressure from Egypt to work with the militant organization in which he is in engaged in a deadly rivalry, Abbas categorically refused unless Hamas recognized the 2005 international border agreement and repudiated the summer coup that brought it to power in Gaza.

"There will be no talks with Hamas unless they comply with the conditions we have put forward to back off their coup, to recognize international legitimacy and to accept new early elections," he said after the meeting.

Abbas left Cairo shortly afterward, making it clear he had no intention of meeting the Hamas officials who were also in town to talk with the Egyptians.

"Since Hamas cannot adapt to the regional and international reality, it cannot be in charge of the crossing," said Hassan Asfour, a former Palestinian minister, now a political analyst in Cairo. "It is simple, all parties, the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Europeans and the Americans ... everybody is against that."

Meanwhile, Israeli newspapers forecast Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's survival yesterday after a report criticized the army and his government's conduct during a 2006 war in Lebanon but offered him a political reprieve.

"The exoneration and the failure" was how mass circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth described the outcome of the final report in a banner headline, with one columnist saying that Olmert could "breathe a sigh of relief."

The government-appointed Winograd Commission said political and army leaders had committed "serious failings" during the war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. But it did not blame Olmert personally and endorsed key decisions he made.

Olmert's rivals had positioned themselves for a resignation that could have triggered an election.

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