Abbas prepares for Gaza visit

March 18, 2011 at 7:00 AM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, March 18 (UPI) -- Preparations are under way for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit the Gaza Strip to try to form a unity government with Hamas, officials said.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he invited Abbas to meet in "Gaza or any other place" to discuss political unity, the Ma'an news agency reported Friday.

"I am ready to delay the formation of the new government to give Hamas a chance to join," Abbas said this week at the start of a meeting in Ramallah of the PLO Central Committee, a legislative body of 130 members in which Hamas holds the majority, the news agency said.

Lawmaker Yasser al-Wadieh praised the Palestinian president. calling his efforts to bring an end to the split between Hamas and Fatah a "courageous initiative."

"The opportunity is ripe for reconciliation if we can keep personal interests off the table," an unnamed Palestinian official told Ma'an.

It will be the first visit to the Gaza Strip by Abbas since 2007, when Hamas took power.

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