- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 24, 2007

GAZA CITY — Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian government dismissed by President Mahmoud Abbas, called for power-sharing talks yesterday with Fatah rivals routed from the Gaza Strip.

“There will be no dialogue with Hamas,” responded Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank.

Hamas seized control of Gaza just over a week ago and faces isolation there, not only from Israel and Western powers, but also from the emergency Cabinet Mr. Abbas set up in the occupied West Bank as well as from Arab states like Egypt and Jordan.

Mr. Abbas issued orders yesterday appointing a commission to investigate how his Fatah forces lost control of Gaza to the Islamist group, and dismissed a senior Gaza commander who “surrendered” rather than fight.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Hamas’ bloody takeover of Gaza amounted to a “coup against legitimacy” that damaged the Palestinian cause.

Israel plans to choke off all but humanitarian and basic supplies to Gaza, home to 1.5 million people, while opening the financial taps to Mr. Abbas’ emergency government.

Some aid groups said Mr. Abbas’ decision to sever contact with the Hamas leadership in Gaza was holding up negotiations on reopening Gaza’s main commercial crossing at Karni.

“Food is being used as a political weapon,” said a senior Western diplomat involved in the negotiations.

Hamas is considering hiring private contractors to take over the border crossings because Israel refuses to deal with the Islamist group, an official close to Hamas said.

Israel will begin this week to transfer tax revenues to Mr. Abbas’ emergency government in the West Bank and ease some travel restrictions there.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will reportedly make the offers to Mr. Abbas tomorrow when the leaders meet at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

In the West Bank, Israel yesterday seized a top militant from Hamas whom officials identified as the founder of the group’s armed wing in the territory.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the arrest was proof “we are facing a dual conspiracy” in the West Bank, one led by Israel and the other by Mr. Abbas’ Fatah security forces.

Mr. Abbas has ruled out any dialogue with Hamas, which he accused of trying to assassinate him. Hamas has denied the accusations.

“The way out of the current situation is launching a Palestinian dialogue without preconditions,” Mr. Haniyeh told Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh by phone.

Mr. Haniyeh said these talks should be held “on the basis of no loser and no winner, and on the basis of no harm to anyone, and on the basis of a national unity government,” according to the former prime minister’s office.

A source close to Mr. Haniyeh said his statement was a call to form a new unity government with Fatah and other factions.

Mr. Haniyeh’s office said the Hamas leader also spoke by telephone to Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and that “both sides stressed that there is no solution to the status quo except through dialogue.”

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