Hamas leaders gather government talks, as Egypt step up pressure on the group to moderate | VailDaily.com

Hamas leaders gather government talks, as Egypt step up pressure on the group to moderate

CAIRO, Egypt – Top Hamas leaders tried to find a formula for a new Palestinian government in talks Monday with Egyptian officials, who stepped up pressure on the militant Islamic group to recognize Israel and renounce violence.A top Hamas official said the group would, for now, abide by past agreements that Palestinian leaders made with Israel – but would not recognize the Jewish state.Hamas’ contradictory stance – those agreements include recognition – reflected its strained attempts to win the support of regional powerhouse Egypt, which signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979, and persuade Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to bring his more moderate Fatah party into a coalition government.Egypt wants Fatah to join the government to contain damage to the peace process with Israel, which says it won’t work with a Hamas-led government. So far, Fatah has rejected Hamas calls for it to participate in the government.Hamas is proposing a national coalition government that would include Fatah and other Palestinian factions. If this fails, it proposes appointing an independent prime minister and leaving the vital control over Palestinian security forces in Abbas’ hands, said a Palestinian official who is close to the Cairo talks.Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’ exiled political leader, along with other Hamas leaders based in Syria and in the Palestinian territories, held talks Monday with Omar Suleiman, head of Egypt’s powerful intelligence service.Last week, Suleiman, Egypt’s top mediator with the Palestinians, said Egypt intends to tell Hamas leaders that they must recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals.Hamas leaders on Monday insisted they could not change their stance.”We can’t recognize Israel, as that violates our principles and the ticket on which we run in the election that is of resistance, reform and change. You don’t run with an electoral program, and when you win, reverse it,” one Hamas leader, Mohammad Nazal, told The Associated Press.Mashaal’s right-hand man, Moussa Abu Marzouk, tried to strike a middle ground, saying Hamas would not abrogate the 1993 Oslo peace accords signed by Israel and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.”There is no authority that inherits another authority without abiding by the agreements already made,” he said, speaking to reporters Sunday before the talks started.Still, he warned Hamas might try later to call off the deals. “If the agreements contradict logic and rights, there are legal measures to be taken. … There are no eternal agreements,” he said, speaking to reporters on Sunday.The formation of a new Palestinian government will likely not come before April. Israel’s acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said Monday he will work with Abbas as long as he does not join forces with Hamas, emphasizing that he does not want to undermine the Palestinian leader.Nazal told AP that “we are suggesting a coalition government that would include Fatah, other Palestinian factions and prominent Palestinian figures. … We do not want to be a ruling leading party and leave other factions out.”As a compromise, Hamas is proposing that a new government could be formed by an independent Palestinian figure who might be capable of leading the government and be accepted by Israel, said the official who is close to the talks.The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the talks, said among those who are considered for the post is Zaid Abu Amr, a prominent West Bank moderate activist believed to have close ties with the Bush administration.Egypt is pressing Hamas to still agree to keep Palestinian security forces under Abbas’ control. It is also urging Israel to work closely with Abbas and avoid weakening his authority.”We will act in the legal framework to get out from this deadlock, which our brothers in Fatah have put us in,” Abu Marzouk told reporters late Sunday.After Egypt, Hamas leaders plan to visit other Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iran.Hamas is under growing international pressure to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist as a condition for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid – the lifeline of the Palestinian economy. Western powers have said they will not fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government otherwise. Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism