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Middle East
Prisoner exchange talks in Egypt
Hamas leader meets Egyptian officials to discuss possible prisoner swap with Israel.
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2006 20:13 GMT


Khalid Mishaal lives in exile in Damascus

Khalid Mishaal, the exiled Hamas political leader, has held talks with Egyptian officials trying to arrange a prisoner exchange with Israel.

A senior Hamas has described the discussions with Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief who has been handling the prisoner issue, as "positive".
No statement was released after the talks, but Moussa Abu Marzouk, Mishaal's deputy, said the "Israeli soldier issue and the national unity government" were discussed.

"What most concerns us is the release of our Palestinian prisoners," he said from of Damascus where Mishaal live in exile.
Hamas had demanded that Israel free 1,400 Palestinian prisoners, including all women and children, in exchange for the release of an Israeli soldier seized by Palestinian fighters in a cross border raid in June.

Differences over the timing and number of prisoners have so far prevented a deal.
 
The capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit led Israel to begin a

"...we are in hurry to obtain the release of our prisoners, so releasing the prisoners is a must."

Osama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon

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military offensive in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 200 Palestinians.

Osama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, told Al Jazeera the group was "not in a hurry" to release Shalit, but "we are in hurry to obtain the release of our prisoners, so releasing the prisoners is a must."

Egypt, which has tried to negotiate Shalit's release for months, has previously blamed Hamas for the failure to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli infrastructure minister, who visited Cairo in October, said his government had accepted Egypt's conditions for a prisoner swap and has blamed Mishaal for the failure to conclude the deal. 

Abu Marzouk also told the Associated Press news agency on Thursday that the formation of a national unity government had not been as "quick as we have hoped it would be" and blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the delay.

"There are new demands by Abu Mazen [Abbas] other than the initial understandings reached over the government. ... We are trying to put matters once again on track," he said.

Earlier this week Ismail Haniya, prime minister in the Hamas-led Palestinian government, said the participation of his party in a unity government hinged on winning guarantees of a resumption of international financial aid which was suspended after they came to power in March.
Source:
Agencies
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