Gaza's Hamas leader launches Muslim world trip

AP News
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Posted: Dec 25, 2011 8:07 AM
Gaza's Hamas leader launches Muslim world trip

Gaza's prime minister left the territory Sunday on his first trip abroad since his militant Hamas movement seized power in June 2007, hoping to improve ties with Muslim countries swept up in the uprisings convulsing the Arab world.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's deputy, Mohammed Awwad, said the Gaza leader would visit Egypt, Sudan, Qatar, Bahrain, Tunisia and Turkey.

Awwad said Haniyeh would discuss possible development projects for Gaza and the West Bank, as well as progress toward reconciling the dueling governments of the two Palestinian territories and Israeli construction in disputed Jerusalem.

"We hope that with this visit we can turn a new page in Palestinian-Arab relations," he said before Haniyeh left for neighboring Egypt through Gaza's Rafah crossing.

His departure was confirmed by border official Maher Abu Sabha.

Awwad said the Gaza prime minister would meet with uprising leaders as well as official decision-makers.

Haniyeh plans to be abroad at least two weeks and possibly more if he receives invitations to visit from other Muslim countries, Awwad said.

Haniyeh had been confined to Gaza, mostly because of tensions with Egypt and fighting with Israel. But Egypt's new rulers have warmed up to Hamas since longtime President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.