Abbas, Hamas leaders meet for first time since elections

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed that the militant Hamas group will take control of Palestinian security forces after it assumes power, and hasn't demanded that it recognize Israel or Palestinian-Israeli accords if it wants to form the next government, a Hamas leader said Saturday.

Another group leader predicted a Hamas-led government would be in place by the end of the month.

Abbas met with Hamas leaders Saturday night for the first time since the group routed his long-ruling Fatah Party in Jan. 25 parliamentary elections, unnerving Israel and the West.

Abbas, who was elected separately last year and wants to restart peace talks with Israel, must now work out a power-sharing arrangement with the Islamic group, which is commited to Israel's destruction and has killed hundreds of Israelis.

Israel's Channel 1 TV reported that Abbas sought to maintain control of Palestinian police in his meeting with Hamas, but Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said no such demands were made.

"There is no truth to baseless reports that President Abbas wants to take over the security institutions," Haniyeh told reporters after the meeting.

Abbas, who didn't comment after the meeting, has not said he wanted to retain authority over the 58,000-member Palestinian police. But other senior Fatah officials have insisted that Fatah-dominated security forces wouldn't submit to Hamas control.

Abbas, who has said he plans to stay on as president, has said he intends to ask the new Cabinet to honor the Palestinian Authority's previous deals with Israel. Asked if any conditions were imposed on Hamas as the price of forming the new government, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh replied, "It's natural that the incoming government must be in harmony" with Palestinian commitments, reports AP.


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