Arab Parliament Stages Hamas, Fatah Reconciliation Bid

Arab League forum's speaker urges Palestinians to 'close ranks,' meets Meshal, plans to meet Abbas.

The Speaker of the Arab Parliament, Mohammad al-Saqr, arrived in Amman Friday saying he was planning to meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Saturday as part of a reconciliation bid between Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.

"In my capacity as Speaker of the Arab Parliament, I feel it is our duty to stage an initiative" to bridge the gap between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement, al-Saqr told reporters on his arrival.

The Parliament is a representative forum for Arab League member states based in Damascus.

He said he had held a meeting in Damascus last week with Hamas' political chief Khaled Meshal, "who expressed desire in a reconciliation" with Fatah.

Al-Saqr pointed out that he had also called Abbas and proposed a meeting between him and an Arab parliamentary delegation to discuss the "prospects of forging a reconciliation."

The deputy speaker of the Jordanian lower house of parliament, Nayef al-Fayez, expressed the Jordanian chamber's backing for al-Saqr's drive.

"We urge the Palestinian brethren to close ranks so as to be able to regain their rights, foremost the setting up of an independent Palestinian state," al-Fayez said as he welcomed al-Saqr at the airport.

Abbas has vowed not to enter into dialogue with Hamas after it drove out his Fatah forces from the Gaza Strip two weeks ago, prompting the PA chair to sack the Hamas-led government and appoint an emergency cabinet led by U.S.-educated economist Salam Fayyad.

However a reconciliation move launched recently by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seemed to gather momentum over the past few days.

Amman-based Arab diplomats believe that the Palestinian dialogue drive will receive a push when Abbas meets King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh in mid-July.

As brokers of the February Mecca deal between Hamas and Fatah the Saudis stand a good chance of healing the Palestinian rift again, an Arab diplomat said.