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Thursday, March 31, 2011     GET REAL

Hamas seen blocking Abbas visit to Gaza Strip

RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority has determined that its latest reconciliation offensive with Hamas would fail.


Officials said PA intelligence has assessed that Hamas would block an effort for a unity government with the Fatah movement. They said Hamas's military would not allow PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to enter the Gaza Strip to conclude an agreement.

"Izzedin Kassam [Hamas' military] is definitely against any reconciliation with the PA under any circumstances," an official said.

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Abbas was planning to visit the Gaza Strip by mid-April, Middle East Newsline reported. But the PA chairman has refused to resume negotiations with Hamas for a unity government.

"Hamas insists on starting dialogue from point zero," Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Shaath said.

Shaath, a former PA foreign minister, said Abbas would engage in consultations with the Fatah leadership before he decided on when to visit the Gaza Strip. He said Hamas was expected to oppose any Abbas visit and instead wait until the Islamic regime garners Arab support.

"Hamas aspires and is counting on Egypt to be ruled by Islamists so they can help Hamas against us," Shaath said. "Hamas says, 'Why rush?' to which I say it is a losing bet. I don't see Iran or Syria in the picture because the winds of change are hitting everyone in the region."

So far, the new military regime in Egypt has not embraced Hamas in wake of the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Officials said Cairo remained suspicious of Hamas and was refusing the entry of its agents in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

"Even if the president [Abbas] visits Gaza, reconciliation won't be reached and the bet will be on the street movement to end the split," former PA Culture Minister Ibrahim Abrashi said.

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