Iran TerrorismCheney says Syria and Iran are sabotaging talks

Cheney says Syria and Iran are sabotaging talks

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The Guardian: The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, yesterday accused Syria and Iran of using the Islamist movement Hamas to “torpedo” peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. The Guardian

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem

The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, yesterday accused Syria and Iran of using the Islamist movement Hamas to “torpedo” peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

Cheney, who for the second time in two days met the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in Jerusalem, was on a visit intended to encourage the faltering peace talks, which, four months since they were launched, have achieved little.

“It is clearly a difficult situation, in part, because I think it’s true, there’s evidence, that Hamas is supported by Iran and Syria and that they’re doing everything they can to torpedo the peace process,” Cheney told reporters after the meeting.

The vice-president met Palestinian leaders on Sunday and said “painful concessions” were required by both sides if an independent Palestinian state was to be created.

Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, said his government was not prepared to reduce the number of checkpoints and roadblocks in the occupied West Bank. There are now around 560 obstacles across the West Bank, which Israel claims are important security measures but which severely disrupt movement and business activities for Palestinians. Barak, who yesterday visited a checkpoint in the southern West Bank, said Israel would speed up movement through some of the checkpoints.

The international community, human rights groups and aid agencies regularly call on Israel to reduce the number of West Bank obstacles to encourage some improvement in the Palestinian economy. Nabil Amr, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “You cannot punish all of the Palestinians under the umbrella of security.”

In Gaza, the Israeli military shot dead a Palestinian, who local health officials said was a farmer, aged 65. The shooting came after militants from the Popular Resistance Committees, a Palestinian faction, opened fire on an Israeli army bulldozer near the boundary fence close to Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.

In a separate incident, an apparent agreement between the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas appeared to unravel yesterday, only a few hours after it had been signed following days of talks in Yemen. The two factions fought a near-civil war in Gaza last year that claimed hundreds of lives.

They held talks in Yemen and signed an agreement to begin another round of talks to form a joint government. However, a senior Fatah leader, Ahmed Qureia, said there had been a “misunderstanding” and that the Fatah representative should not have signed the document.

The prospect of a Fatah-Hamas deal is difficult for the Israeli government. Israeli leaders are in talks with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, but refuse publicly to speak to Hamas unless it halts violence, recognises Israel and accepts previous peace agreements. A power-sharing agreement between Fatah and Hamas, however remote at the moment, would probably cause Israel to halt the current peace talks.

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