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Palestinian Officials: Bid to Reconcile Hamas, Fatah Fails

By VOA News
20 March 2008

Palestinian officials say Yemeni-brokered talks have failed to reconcile differences between rival Palestinian factions - Hamas and Fatah.

The officials say Hamas refused to accept the Yemeni plan. It calls for the political situation in the Gaza Strip to return to the way it was before Hamas gunmen seized control of the territory from Fatah fighters last June.

Previously, the two factions controlled Gaza under a unity government.

Hamas and Fatah delegations were in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, this week for separate talks on the Yemeni initiative.

In Syria's capital, Damascus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Hamas representatives in an attempt to help restore unity between Hamas and Fatah. Lavrov said such unity is key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lavrov also met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for talks on achieving stability in the Middle East.

Fatah is led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who dissolved the unity government following Hamas's takeover of Gaza and set up a Fatah-led government in the West Bank.

In other news, Israeli and U.S. military officers completed a joint training exercise aimed at improving coordination between their armed forces.

Israeli defense officials say the four-day computer exercise in Tel Aviv is part of a standing agreement between Israel and the United States to hold regular joint training.

Israel and the U.S. are strategic allies. Officials from both sides said that "extreme scenarios" were tested during the exercise, called Juniper Falcon, without elaborating.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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