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EU, U.S. in contact with Hamas, group leader says
Updated: 2004-12-14 09:11

The United States and the European Union are in contact with Palestinian militant group Hamas despite having listed it as a terrorist organization, a Hamas leader said in an interview broadcast on Monday.

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal told BBC television that the militant group, which has been at the forefront of a four-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, has no plans to agree a cease-fire unless it is decided by a referendum or negotiated among all Palestinian powers.

Meshaal said violence and negotiations for peace went hand in hand and that Hamas would reject calls for a cease-fire even if they came from a new Palestinian president, who is expected to be elected next month.

"Negotiating without resistance leads to surrender but negotiating with resistance leads to real peace," Meshaal said.

Meshaal said Washington made contact with Hamas recently and the EU is still holding meetings with it.

"The European Union, which put Hamas on a list of terrorist organizations, is still continuing communications and meetings," Meshaal said.

"The American administration, which also put us on terror lists and criticizes us, contacted us in the past months."

A spokeswoman for the EU's executive commission said she was unaware of any contact between the bloc and Hamas.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department and a White House official dismissed the comments.

"We've heard these reports but we're not aware of anything that would substantiate them," the official said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana got himself in a tangle last month when he said he had direct talks with Hamas and then, hours later, denied it.

Solana's office said at the time that any mention of contacts or meetings between Solana and Hamas referred to "soundings and impressions conveyed to him" and on Monday a spokesperson from Solana's office reiterated that statement.

Britain's Foreign Office said on Monday that London's policy was not to talk to Hamas but said that like the EU, Britain had held talks with people and governments close to Hamas.

"We recognize that anyone who wants a proper understanding of what is happening in Israel and the occupied territories needs to talk to people and governments who know and understand Hamas," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

Meshaal said he was convinced that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had died from poisoning last month, a theory expounded by many Palestinians despite vehement denials from their leaders and doctors who cared for Arafat in Paris.

"There's a lot of evidence that Yasser Arafat was poisoned. His health deteriorated suddenly without a reason, The symptoms which Yasser Arafat suffered were similar to poisoning."

The EU put Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations last year after the group rejected repeated EU calls to end suicide bombings in Israel and declare a cease-fire to permit peace negotiations.

The United States also regards Hamas, which advocates the destruction of Israel, as a terrorist group.

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