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Cautious Fatah welcome over Meshaal re-election

GAZA CITY: Khaled Meshaal has been re-elected head of the Hamas movement, an official said, drawing a cautious welcome from the rival Fatah movement which rules the West Bank.
The reelection of the charismatic 56-year-old as the overall head of the Palestinian movement which rules Gaza, was widely seen as a shoo-in, with his new mandate confirmed by a vote in Cairo late on Monday.
“The leaders of Hamas chose Meshaal,” a high-ranking official told AFP by phone, speaking on condition of anonymity after a late-night vote of the Shoura Council which groups Hamas leaders from Gaza, the West Bank and overseas. His reelection was welcomed as a positive step by a senior member of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement. “Meshaal is a pragmatic person and may be more malleable than others in Hamas,” Fatah Central Committee member Mahmud Alul told Voice of Palestine radio.
“This may help in pushing forth a number of political files and also internally to achieve reconciliation,” he said, referring to efforts to bridge years of bitter rivalry between the two Palestinian national movements.
“All we want is a capable movement that can lead Hamas. There needs to be a leadership that can impose a political will — one approach and not contradictory ones — especially in terms of reconciliation and the overall Palestinian cause,” he said.
There was no official reaction from Israel to his reelection, although public radio described Meshaal as a “pragmatist with charisma,” saying he represented “hardcore Hamas with a Western facade.”
In recent years, Meshaal has modified his position adopting an implicit acceptance of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, although the Jewish state has remained guarded.
Following speculation he would be forced aside by the movement’s powerful Gaza leadership, Meshaal himself said last year he would not seek a new term.
But in the light of the regional turmoil sparked by the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, the thinking shifted, and Meshaal came to be seen as best-placed to guide the movement through the rapidly changing environment because of his extensive contacts in the Arab world, another Hamas official said. Developments since the Arab Spring “pushed Hamas to choose Meshaal... who has given the movement a national face... and has good relations in the Arab world,” the official said.
Hamas sources said the Shoura Council had decided to appoint two deputies who would work under Meshaal — Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh who would be responsible for issues within the Palestinian territories, and Mussa Abu Marzuq who would handle all external issues.

Meshaal, who was born in the West Bank but went into exile as a child, made his first-ever visit to Gaza in December where he received a hero’s welcome as he attended the celebrations marking 25 years since the founding of Hamas.

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