DAMASCUS: Egypt s intelligence chief held talks Saturday with Hamas exiled political leader in Damascus on forming a Palestinian unity government and swapping prisoners for a kidnapped Israeli soldier, a Hamas official said. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met with Omar Suleiman about containing the conflict between the ruling Hamas and Fatah party, Hamas official Osama Hamdan said in a telephone interview from Lebanon.
The talks came amid tension that has lead to violent street clashes in the Palestinian territories between Hamas and its rival Fatah.
Fatah s leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has advocated recognizing Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state on parts of the West Bank and Gaza.
Hamas has refused, and talks over forming a power-sharing government have stalled over the issue.
On Friday, Mashaal said Hamas would not recognize Israel, but it wants to join a national unity government with Abbas rival Fatah faction.
He also said Hamas was ready to swap captured Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit for Palestinian prisoners.
Also Saturday, Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siyam and his Syrian counterpart Gen. Bassam Abdul-Majid met in Damascus to discuss the Palestinian situation. Farouk Kaddoumi, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization s political wing, also met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem, the official Syrian news agency, SANA, reported.
While the United States and the EU regard Hamas as a terrorist organization, Syria views it as a group fighting Israel occupation of Palestinian territory.
Recognition of Israel is a major demand by the US and EU for lifting sanction on Hamas, which were imposed after Hamas defeated Fatah in the January legislative elections.
A recent Qatari endeavor to mediate reconciliation based on the formation of a national unity government also ended in failure because of Hamas refusal to recognize Israel.