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Friday, September 2, 2011     GET REAL

Hamas won't allow Abbas to visit Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY — Hamas has maintained its ban on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.


Officials said Hamas would not allow Abbas to proceed with plans to visit the Gaza Strip. They said Abbas' safety could not be guaranteed during any visit to the Hamas-ruled enclave.

"We cannot take any risks to security in the Gaza Strip because of internal differences in Fatah," Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar said.

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In an Aug. 29 interview to the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi, Zahar dismissed Abbas' eight-month campaign to visit the Gaza Strip and address its 1.7 million Palestinians. Zahar, regarded as the leading political figure in the Gaza Strip, said Abbas' visit would not promote reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Zahar said Abbas could come under an assassination threat by former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan, twice expelled from the West Bank over the last nine months, has been accused by Abbas of plotting a coup against the PA.

"There are no arrangements by Abu Mazen [Abbas] to visit Gaza, and in my opinion it is not wise that he come under these circumstances," Zahar said.

Zahar said Abbas was nearly killed by Fatah dissidents in 2004 when he arrived in the Gaza Strip to mourn the death of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Zahar said two people were killed in a gun battle outside a mourner's tent visted by Abbas.

In May, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement that included the formation of a national unity government. The two movements have failed to reach agreement, and Zahar said recent meetings have focused on the release of political detainees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Zahar also dismissed the PA campaign to win international recognition for a Palestinian state this month. He warned that Abbas has no mandate to bring foreign troops, including those from NATO, as an interim force until any Israeli withdrawal.

"The experience of international forces, whether in Egypt or NATO, failed," Zahar said.

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