Arab talks focus on Palestinians

Foreign ministers from nine Arab countries are meeting in Abu Dhabi for talks on the division between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, reported Aljazeera.

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have signalled their support for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, Hamas' main rival.

The meeting on Tuesday comes as Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in Tehran.

In recent weeks the three countries have stayed away from meetings attended by Ahmadinejad in protest against Iranian support for armed groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the talks in Abu Dhabi show that the Arab landscape is being "reconfigured".

"There are outside influences, whether they be American, European, Turkish or Iranian, which are adding to the pressure on the Arab world," he said on Tuesday.

"There are those who support accommodation with Israel and the United States and those who support resisting Israeli occupation and American influence in the region."

The Abu Dhabi talks come amid continuing differences between Hamas and Fatah, with the Palestinian parties as far away from a national unity government as ever.

Meshaal said earlier this week that the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is designated the sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people, is obsolete and should be replaced.

But Abbas, whose Fatah movement has the backing of the US and Israel, has said he will not talk with any group that fails to recognise the legitimacy of the PLO.

Iranian support for Hamas shows how far the Shia state has sought to distance itself from countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Bishara said.

"Since the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran has felt that it is surrounded by American bases, as well as an American attempt to change its regime," Bishara said.

"Arab countries hosting American bases have supported regime change in Iran. So Iran lashed back ... it used all the tools possible to spread its influence around the region."

The fact that groups such as Hamas adhere to Sunni Islam has not prevented Iran from forming an alliegance with them, Bishara said.

"The Sunni groups that Iran is supporting are so-called Islamic Brotherhood groups that came about in the 1930s. Those groups do not look favourably to Shia Islam as a religious view. Yet Iran supports them, not for religious reasons, but for geo-political reasons."

"Talk of the Shia crescent is more of an American-Israeli view of things, rather than the reality in the region," he said.

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