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King Abdullah II yesterday told visiting Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal that Jordan would support the creation of an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.

"The negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, which are backed by the world community, represent the sole channel for regaining the Palestinian rights and the achievement of the two-state solution," according to a statement by the king.

Meshal arrived yesterday on the first visit to Jordan by a Hamas leader in 12 years; he and four other members of the movement were expelled from Jordan in 1999, reportedly under U.S. and Israeli pressure.

He was accompanied by the Qatari Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as Doha is mediating a rapprochement between Hamas and Jordan.

King Abdullah assured Meshal of Amman's support of the reconciliation deal Hamas sealed in Cairo with Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Closing Palestinian ranks is so important in bolstering the Palestinian people's attitude and their endeavors to regain their legitimate rights," he said, alluding to Palestinian talks with Israel that seemingly reached a dead end in Amman last week.

Meshal later said "Israel's intransigence" derailed the direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority 16 months ago when the Israeli government failed to extend a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

"The Israelis have occupied the land, confiscated the rights (of Palestinians ) and pushed the peace process and negotiations to failure," he said.