Hamas confident it can form government, control security

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 08-Feb-06 | Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Egypt put no conditions on the group

Hamas leaders expressed confidence Tuesday they will be able to form a Palestinian government and expected to control several security agencies once it heads a new administration. Kicking off an international tour in Cairo, Hamas' top political leader, Khaled Meshaal, and other officials from the movement met with the head of the Arab League and a top aide of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in talks on a formula for drawing up a government after Hamas' landslide victory in Parliament elections last month.

"I am convinced that thanks to our meetings in Arab and Muslim countries ... we will be able to reach a common vision allowing us to preserve Palestinian rights whilst demonstrating realism," Meshaal told reporters after talks with League chief Amr Moussa.

Egyptian officials have said they will urge Hamas to moderate its anti-Israeli stances in an attempt to prevent a collapse of the peace process with Israel.

But Meshaal told reporters that Egypt had "put no conditions on Hamas" in their talks with Mubarak aide Osama al-Baz Tuesday and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman the night before.

"It is wrong for one party or another to impose conditions on the Palestinian people or to demand concessions from one side only," Baz told reporters.

Meshaal insisted Hamas would succeed in its goal of forming a national coalition government but would not permanently renounce violence.

"Hamas will continue resistance and will at the same time be able to discuss with other Palestinian factions the ways to fulfil the people's rights, and we will show the necessary flexibility," Meshaal said after talks with Moussa.

Meshaal also voiced his confidence that Hamas could find alternative sources of funding should Western powers turn off the tap.

"We are not exempting the international community of its obligations toward the Palestinian people, but we have more faith in our Muslim and Arab environment," he told reporters.

"We are confident we can use this assistance in a clean and honest way," he added.

Meshaal and several other top Hamas officials are due to embark on a tour of the region in a bid to muster support.

Earlier Tuesday, another Hamas official in Cairo said Hamas would formally ask its political rival Fatah to join a new government.

"We are going to sit down with them and officially propose that they take part in the government," senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyya said.

"We are awaiting the official response from the Fatah leadership," Haniyya was quoted as saying.

"Hamas has not so far asked us to join a government," said Nabil Shaath, a Fatah central committee member and outgoing deputy prime minister.

"But if they do ask us, they must present their political program and all the details about their government and then we will discuss this issue among the Fatah leadership," he told AFP.

Asked whether a Hamas member would become the new prime minister, Haniyya told Reuters: "This is highly expected." But it was too soon to talk about names, he said.

"Given that Hamas is the biggest bloc in the Parliament, President Abu Mazen will authorize someone from inside Hamas to form a government," Haniyya said.

After Egypt, the Hamas leaders are expected to head to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iran.

Haniyya said Hamas had not received official offers of assistance from Iran. "There is nothing defined, but all that we have heard from the Arab and Islamic states, officially and from the public, is reassuring," he said.

In Gaza, a spokesman for Hamas said the Hamas-led government expected to control "the security services which according to the law fall under the responsibility of the interior minister."

Another Hamas official listed those agencies as the civil police, the civil emergency service and the powerful preventive security agency, which is dominated by President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Movement.

There are some 20,000 security men in the three services.

In Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with Jordan's King Abdullah II and underlined that the Hamas election victory is "very problematical for Israel." The principle of "recognizing Israel, cessation of the armed struggle, dismantling terror groups are not negotiable. The principles were accepted by the UN and Israel will not compromise over them," she said.

On the ground, two militants of Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades were killed Tuesday in the latest Israeli air strike on Gaza while special forces shot dead a top armed leader in the West Bank.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, Abbas' spokesman strongly condemned Israeli "escalation" and urged the international community to force Israel "to immediately halt" incursions, assassinations and the Gaza air strikes.

"Israel kills to kill but it is also trying to create an uncomfortable situation for Hamas," Meshaal said. - Agencies