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Palestinian PM in Egypt for Talks on Prisoner Swap
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Making his first trip abroad, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh Wednesday began talks with Egyptian officials on a prisoner swap with Israel and the formation of a Palestinian coalition government.

Arguments on the two issues have delayed attempts to relaunch the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, in which Egypt is playing a key role as mediator.

Haniyeh briefed Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories as well as discussing the prisoner exchange and the negotiations for a coalition government, Egypt's semi-official Middle East News Agency reported.

Haniyeh was scheduled to meet Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa later in the day.
The Palestinian leader, from the militant Hamas group, arrived in Cairo late on Tuesday for talks with intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Egypt's point man for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Suleiman Wednesday flew to Israel where he held talks with Defense Minister Amir Peretz on the prisoner exchange. He was due to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last night.

Israeli government officials say the two sides are far from a deal. Hamas wants Israel to release, in three stages, 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in return for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Hamas-linked militants captured in June.

Tomorrow, Haniyeh is expected to meet his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Nazif before leaving Egypt for a tour of Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Syria and Iran.

Rice to meet Abbas

Haniyeh's Egypt trip comes as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put Washington's heft behind the new peace overtures, scheduling an unexpected meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Saturday to a cease-fire to end five months of fighting in the Gaza Strip, and Rice's visit is being seen as a further push to use the momentum to start new peace talks.

Rice, who is accompanying Bush on a trip to neighboring Jordan, will meet Abbas today in the West Bank town of Jericho, said Saeb Erekat, a top Abbas aide.

(China Daily November 30, 2006)


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