Palestinian delegation in Egypt for talks on ending feud

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CAIRO: An Islamic Jihad delegation arrived in Egypt on Sunday for talks with officials aimed at ending months of bitter infighting between rival Palestinian factions, the official MENA news agency reported.

Ramadan Abdullah Shalh, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, arrived here on Sunday for an inter-Palestinian dialogue that will be hosted by Egypt in the coming few days, it said.

Egypt is expected to hold separate talks with rival Palestinian factions over the course of the week, including Hamas and Fatah which have been bitterly divided since June 2007 when Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah movement.

Cairo has been acting as a mediator between Hamas and Fatah, and between Hamas and Israel, which views the Islamist movement as a terror group.

In an interview in the state-owned daily Al-Ahram on Saturday, former Palestinian foreign minister and Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar denied any rifts in relations between Egypt and his movement.

There are no ruptures between the two parties, but issues to resolve, Zahar said.

He denied press reports that Egypt had used toxic gas against smugglers using tunnels linking the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip and denied that Hamas had changed its demands in negotiations on the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Hamas has been trying to secure a deal to swap Shalit, seized in a deadly cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip in June 2006, for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. -AFP

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