The leader of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas met Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow for talks on efforts to reunify the two main Palestinian independence movements.
"We met to pursue our discussions, and our principal goal is to build on efforts brokered by Egypt to secure Palestinian unity," Lavrov told reporters at the start of talks with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal.
Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus, praised Russia for seeking a "reconciliation" between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.
Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after a week of vicious street battles with Fatah loyalists.
Since then, the two main Palestinian movements have been deeply divided, confining Abbas' authority to the occupied West Bank and cleaving the Palestinians into hostile rival camps.
In a newspaper interview published Monday, Meshaal accused the United States of attempting to sabotage reconciliation efforts.
"We know that the US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, has recently put pressure on Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian officials," he told Russian daily Vremya Novostei.
"If Abbas reconciles with us than the United States will halt aid to the Palestinian administration."
"Russia wants unity in the Palestinian ranks -- the Americans don't care about this," he told the paper.
Hamas is classified as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the EU, but Russia has maintained official ties with the movement since it won elections and took power in Gaza in 2005.
Meshaal has visited Moscow on two previous occasions, in March 2006 and February 2007. He was scheduled to hold a news conference at 1300 GMT.
AFP has contributed to the report.
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