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Khaled Mashaal
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Report: Assad to meet Hamas leadership
Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper says Syrian president trying to appease Damascus-based delegates of Palestinian factions as they gear to relocate headquarters

Syrian President Bashar Assad is expected to meet with Damascus-based representatives of the Palestinian factions in the coming days, including the heads of Hamas, Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper reported Tuesday.

 

Assad's relationship with Hamas leadership has been rocky since March 2011, when Syria plunged into civil unrest.

 

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The Syrian president expressed his disapproval of Hamas' decision to relocate its politburo to another Arab country. The decision was made following the growing unrest in the country.

 

According to the newspaper, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, the meeting aims to broker reconciliation between Assad and Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal, but the two are not likely to meet in private at this time.

 

Sources privy to the "state of mind in Damascus" told the newspaper that Assad is also expected to attend an Arab summit in Baghdad, scheduled to take place in March.

 

The summit is crucial so Syria's relations with the Arab world, which suffered a major blow following the Arab League's decision to suspend Syria over the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

 

The report said that top Iranian officials are expected to attend the summit as well – possibly even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a fact that may work in Syria's favor, as the two are considered to be close allies.

 

Also Tuesday, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy demanded Tuesday that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad step down, accusing him of overseeing sickening "massacres" against his own people.

 

Sarkozy told an audience of French military personnel that the Syrian people should be allowed "to freely choose their own destiny" after facing what he denounced as brutal persecution that inspires "disgust and revulsion".

 

Roi Kais and AFP contributed to this report

 

 

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