Egypt president meets with Palestinian leader

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as Arab governments continued a flurry of diplomacy aimed at forming a new Palestinian government after Hamas' surprise election victory. Their talks were expected to focus on the Hamas win and peace efforts in the region, Egypt's Middle East News Agency said. Mubarak was also scheduled to meet later Wednesday with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was making her first trip to Egypt since she became foreign minister last month.

There were growing indications that the flurry of diplomacy could lead to a meeting, perhaps later this week in Cairo, between Abbas, the Palestinian leader who heads the mainstream Fatah party, and the Damscus-based political leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal. It would be the first meeting between the two since July, when Abbas visited Syria.

Hamas wants Egypt to help persuade Fatah to join a unity government, but is facing resistance from the mainstream faction and likely will face demands for concessions. Abbas flew to Cairo on Tuesday night after a session in Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah II earlier in the day. Abbas immediately went into meetings with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Hamas stunned Israel, its allies and much of the Arab world with its overwhelming victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections last week and is under intense pressure from the international community, including the Arabs, to step back from its platform of the destruction of Israel.

Hamas has so far refused to disavow its calls for the destruction of Israel and renounce violence, despite warnings of a cutoff of international aid for the Palestinians unless it does so as it forms a new government.

Arab nations are eager to moderate Hamas and see it enter government with policies that would avoid a cutoff of international aid to the Palestinians and avert a breakdown in the peace process with Israel, reports the AP. I.L.

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