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February 16, 2003

Fatah, Hamas send top representatives to Cairo to work out strategy

A gathering of murderers
A Palestinian conference now slated to open Friday in Cairo will bring together official representatives of all of the Palestinian political factions for the first time. Twelve movements plan to participate in the meetings, including the Syrian-backed al-Sa'iqa organization and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Ahmad Jibril.

At an earlier stage of planning the meeting, it appeared that Al-Saiqa and the PFLP-GC would not be invited. But a senior Palestinian source said Wednesday night that the Egyptians had spoken with representatives of these two groups during the past weeks, despite the fact that the groups had not participated in preliminary meetings held in the Gaza Strip. Several participants in the Cairo forum denied on Wednesday that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat had asked not to invite al-Sa'iqa and PFLP-GC to the meetings.

Maher a-Taher, one of the leaders of PFLP-GC, said on Wednesday that the Egyptian organizers told him that they did not want to exclude any Palestinian organization and that everyone was welcome to join the talks.

There are various opinions regarding the importance of the gathering. Those who belittle its significance say that the conference is an Egyptian-European initiative (with the U.S. in the know, of course) aimed at showing that that Arab and European diplomats are not neglecting the Palestinian issue, even when most of the world's attention is focused on Iraq.

On the other hand, there are those who think that the meetings could result in some type of formula for Palestinian unity regarding the goals of their national struggle. [more]