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Palestinian factions discuss elections

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Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah agreed at a meeting in the Qatari capital that presidential and legislative elections must be held "quickly", a Fatah official said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal met on Sunday to explore the formation of an interim Palestinian government to oversee the preparations for the polls and discuss the implementation of a reconciliation deal.

"We agreed on the importance of holding the elections quickly... and removing any obstacles that might delay the polls," said Fatah spokesman Azzam al-Ahmad, who is accompanying Abbas in Doha.

He said the talks, which are being hosted by Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, were "positive" and that both sides reached "agreement on all the major issues" regarding the reconciliation agreement, including the formation of a transitional government made up of independents.

According to a statement released on Qatar's official QNA news agency, the two parties also discussed the stalled peace talks with Israel.

Ahmad said the Hamas and Fatah leaders would resume their talks later on Sunday.

Speaking earlier this week, Ahmad said Sunday's discussions would also address a planned Cairo meeting bringing together all Palestinian leaders, which had originally been set for February 2 but was delayed indefinitely.

Ismail Haniyeh, Meshaal's rival who heads the Hamas government in Gaza, was in Qatar earlier this week and is currently in Bahrain on the second leg of a Gulf tour that will also take him to Iran.

Meshaal has decided not to run again this summer for the leadership of Hamas amid signs of strain within the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

Under the terms of a reconciliation deal signed by Hamas and the Fatah movement in April 2011, parliamentary and presidential elections are to be held by May.

However, implementation of the deal has been delayed on several occasions despite repeated meetings between the parties involved.

The last Palestinian elections were held in 2006.


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