Abbas rejects dialogue with "illegitimate" Hamas

( dpa ) - After talks with Egyptian leaders over the Gaza border crisis, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Wednesday a dialogue with the Hamas movement, which he described as an illegitimate authority.

No authority with any self-respect could accept a dialogue with a coup-staging power, Abbas said at a press conference after talks with Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak.

Cairo is hosting separate talks with Abbas and his rival Hamas to restore control over its border with the Gaza Strip a week after an influx of Palestinians crossed into Egypt to stock up for supplies.

Earlier, Hamas urged Egypt to keep its border with the Gaza Strip open.

" Egypt should keep the Rafah border crossing open as it is our opening to the world," said Mahmud al-Zahhar, who heads the Hamas delegation in the Cairo talks.

Speaking to reporters on his arrival in Egypt via the Rafah border crossing, al-Zahhar said the historic border should not be used to blockade the Palestinian people.

A delegation from Abbas' rival Hamas group is due to hold separate talks later in Cairo to reach an agreement over who will control the Gaza Strip's breached border.

Egypt has been reluctant to speak to the Islamic militant Hamas group since it overran security forces loyal to Abbas' Fatah movement and asserted its control over the Gaza Strip in June.

Cairo looks with scepticism at the radical group, which is perceived as the sister organization of Egypt's outlawed, yet popular, Muslim Brotherhood. A radical Islamic group in control of neighbouring Gaza is a cause for concern in Cairo.

But the situation has changed since gunmen - believed to be from Hamas - blew up holes in the border wall with Egypt to ease the pressure of month-long Israeli blockades of the territory.

Cairo wants to restore arrangements on the border to their state before Hamas took control of Gaza, according to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit.

The pre-June border was under the control of the Palestinian Authority and traffic was overseen by European monitors.

But Hamas, which was excluded from border control, wants to have a say in it.

Abbas wants to restore his control of all Gaza's crossings with Egypt and Israel under a new proposal which won the backing of the United States, the European Union and Arab countries.

But it is not clear how he will have access to the crossings in the territory, from which his movement is banned. Israel said informally it did not mind Fatah's restoring control of Gaza's crossings with Egypt but not the ones with Israel.

The talks in Cairo will prove difficult as it is not clear how an agreement over the border crisis can be reached before the severed dialogue between Fatah and Hamas is resumed.

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