Over the past week, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have crossed the broken barrier
to the Egyptian part of in search of fuel and other essential supplies [REUTERS]

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has ruled out talking to Hamas unless the group meets certain conditions, including previous Gaza border arrangements.

But Hamas, which governs the Palestinian enclave, has said it must have a role in the control of the Rafah crossing  between Egypt and Gaza.

Abbas met Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, and other officials in Cairo on Wednesday for crisis talks on restoring order at the border terminal.

Separately, a number of Hamas officials, including Mahmoud al-Zahhar, Said Siyam and Hussam Abu Hashim, met Mubarak.

'End the coup'

"Hamas has to end its coup in Gaza, accept all international obligations, and accept holding early elections," Abbas said at a news conference after his meeting with Mubarak.

He referred to Hamas as an "illegitimate" party.

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"We cannot accept any new agreements.

"We adhere to the existing international agreements as concluded between us, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the other four sides, including Egypt."

Abbas has US, European and Arab backing to take control of the Rafah crossing, to the exclusion of Hamas, but it is unclear how his Fatah faction, based in the West Bank, would be able to exert control on the border.

The EU said on Monday it would consider sending its border monitors back to the Rafah terminal, provided Israel, Egypt and Abbas all agreed.

Abbas said if Hamas did not back down on their "subversive acts" and meet the conditions, "dialogue would be pointless".

Power struggle

Gaza's border crossings have emerged as an important issue in the power struggle between Hamas and Abbas, whose authority has been limited to West Bank, home to 2.5 million Palestinians, since Hamas' takeover of Gaza in June.

Abbas has proposed taking over all of Gaza's crossings with Egypt and Israel, seeking strategic footholds in the Hamas-controlled enclave.

Abbas wants Hamas to end its coup, accept
international pacts and accept early polls [AFP]
But Hamas sees the effort as part of a campaign to limit its power, won in elections in January 2006.

A senior PLO official told Al Jazeera that Abbas suggested the creation of a buffer zone between Rafah and Gaza, to allay Israeli concerns.

The official said Israel has so far rejected the idea of restoring any Palestinian control to the region.

Hamas on Wednesday sought to counter Abbas by showing that it could manage Rafah.

It allowed television cameras and reporters into the terminal to watch al-Zahhar and other Hamas leaders have their passports stamped by Hamas border guards.

Al-Zahhar told Al Jazeera that the talks would tackle not only the the issue of border crossings, but also other related issues, including Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip and disputes between Hamas and the PA.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, said the group "does not accept anything less than a key role in the Rafah crossing".

Barrier resealed

 

Egypt is attempting to fashion a compromise between Abbas and Hamas.

Egypt increased security around the border town of Rafah on Tuesday, and resealed parts of the barrier destroyed a week ago by Hamas fighters, in an attempt to control the flow of people in and out of the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt during the last week to buy essential supplies previously denied them by an Israeli blockade of the territory.

Egyptian state media has reported Cairo is soon to close the border.

One state-run newspaper said Cairo planned to close the border on Thursday, and the flagship al-Ahram newspaper said the last opportunity for Gazans to return home would be at the start of next week.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies