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Row Complicates Mideast Situation
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With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swearing an emergency Cabinet, which the Hamas labeled illegal but was welcomed by Israel, the situation in the Middle East entered a new, more complicated phase over the weekend, Chinese experts say.

"Now that the burden of running Gaza has fallen on the shoulders of Hamas, the two areas which constitute the Palestinian Territories are both geographically and politically separated," Yin Gang, of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily last night.

But it is unlikely Hamas will declare the Gaza Strip a state, to avoid being seen as a separatist political force, he added.

In addition to dealing with Fatah which controls the West Bank, Hamas also has to coordinate with the different groups which helped it take control of Gaza, he said, adding it faces a tough task with different groups in Gaza eager to gain political power.

"Another problem is the antagonism previously targeted at Israel has now become rivalry between Palestinian groups," said China's former Ambassador to Iran Hua Liming.

Mistrust and hatred between Hamas and Fatah supporters will hamper peace talks, Hua said.

"This is the severest infighting in Palestinian history. The main cause has been the attitude of the Untied States and Israel toward the democratically-elected Hamas government," Hua said, referring to the two countries' refusal to recognize the Hamas-led previous government's legitimacy and defining it as a terrorist organization. "Their attitude can only intensify the conflict between Hamas and Fatah," Hua said.

He also noted that although Hamas fighters seized Fatah positions by force across Gaza, the group has been careful not to slam the door on the possibility of negotiations to form another unity government.

Hamas' supreme leader, Syria-based Khaled Mashaal, has said Abbas still has legitimacy as an elected president and promised to cooperate with him.

(China Daily June 18, 2007)

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