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Abbas, Hamas chief to hold first talks since unity deal

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was to hold talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Doha on Monday for the first meeting since their rival movements signed a surprise unity deal.

RAMALLAH: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was to hold talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Doha on Monday for the first meeting since their rival movements signed a surprise unity deal.

"Abbas will meet Meshaal today (in Doha) but the timing is not clear," a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told AFP.

The Palestinian leader flew to the Qatari capital on Sunday and was to meet with emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Monday morning before attending a family wedding.

He would then meet with the exiled Hamas leader who has been based in Doha for more than two years after leaving his previous base in Damascus due to the bloodshed gripping Syria.

The last time the two leaders met face-to-face was in Cairo in January 2013.

Hamas officials had said at the weekend that the two leaders were expected to meet in Qatar in the coming days.

"President Abu Mazen (Abbas) may meet with Khaled Meshaal on Monday to discuss the reconciliation agreement and how to implement it," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Abbas's Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organisation and rules the West Bank, has been locked in years of bitter rivalry with Meshaal's Hamas since the Islamist movement forcibly took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, ousting forces loyal to the president.

Earlier efforts to broker a political reconciliation have failed, but on April 23, the PLO and Hamas announced they had reached a deal under which they would work together to form a new government of political independents.

News of the deal provoked an angry response from Israel, which said it would not negotiate with any Palestinian government backed by Hamas, putting the final nail in the coffin of the latest round of peace talks.

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