Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hamas, Jihad to Face US Conf.

Contributed by عين ا

"GAZA CITY, Oct 7--The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza on Sunday said it would attend a conference to be held in Syria in November to rival a US-sponsored international Middle East compromise peace meet.

"Hamas and (its political supremo) Khaled Meshaal will participate in this conference in Damascus," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters.

Zuhri said the aim of the rival meeting "is to reaffirm our rights, including Beito Al Moqaddas and refugees, and to reject any attempts to strip us of any of our rights, especially the attempt to do so at the international conference."

The rival Islamic Jihad Movement said it would organize the conference on November 7 in the Syrian capital, ahead of the US meeting expected to take place in Annapolis, Maryland.

Washington had called the conference amid its increased efforts to jumpstart stalled peace talks between the Zionists and Palestinians but no date or venue has been confirmed.

Hamas, which has been boycotted by the Palestinian Authority since it violently seized power in Gaza in June, has called on Arab countries to boycott the US meeting.

Syria, which Washington said it would invite to the conference, has warned that it would not attend unless the Israeli-Arab conflict at large was discussed, including Syria's Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in 1981.

In an interview published Saturday, the head of the Hamas government in Gaza urged Saudi Arabia and Egypt not to attend the conference, saying he didn't expect the gathering to produce results.

The comments by Ismail Haniyeh marked the first time a top Hamas government official in Gaza criticized Arab nations for considering attending the conference. Hamas, as a movement, had issued a similar appeal late last month.

"We are going to appeal directly to the Arab brothers, especially the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and will ask them to reconsider any decision to participate in this conference," Haniyeh said.

The conference is aimed in part at giving Abbas an international boost of support in his rivalry against Hamas.

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