Archive for Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Palestinian leaders conduct talks in Mecca

February 7, 2007

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— Palestinian factions on the brink of civil war gathered Tuesday in Mecca, Islam's holiest city, in a last-ditch effort to end their bloody conflict. The Saudi-led push is key to any future peace talks with Israel - and to Arab efforts to blunt Iran's growing power.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Khaled Mashaal, leader of the militant Hamas movement, flew to the Saudi city of Jiddah before heading to Mecca to meet their host, King Abdullah, ahead of the start of talks today.

The talks are open-ended, a reflection of Saudi Arabia's determination to keep them going until the Palestinians reach a deal for power-sharing in a new coalition government.

The king's mediation and the holding of the talks in Mecca underline the Saudi pressure on the sides to overcome their differences. The Saudis are pointedly convening the talks in a Mecca guest palace overlooking the Kaaba, the cube-shaped shrine toward which all Muslims turn when they pray.

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