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Hamas ready for dialogue with US, Europe
Updated: 2005-06-08 21:11

RAMALLAH, West Bank - The Islamic militant group Hamas is ready for dialogue with the U.S. and Europe, but rejects calls from the West to disarm, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Mohammed Ghazal, a Hamas representative in the West Bank, spoke a day after Britain's visiting foreign secretary, Jack Straw, ruled out contact with Hamas leaders until the group renounces violence. The United States also considers Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to deal with it.

Ghazal said a dialogue with the West would be beneficial for Hamas. "We don't want to leave this area only in the hands of Israel," he said. Hamas has informal contacts with former American and European officials, he added.

But he said Hamas, which has carried out dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli targets, wouldn't give up its weapons until the Palestinians win independence.

"We are interested in dialogue," Ghazal said. "But we are not able to meet their conditions now, before resolving our national cause."

If the Palestinians create their own state, he added, Hamas would disarm. "If they help us get back our rights, we will immediately stop our attacks and military activity," Ghazal said.

Despite Straw's tough words Tuesday, the British foreign secretary acknowledged that British diplomats recently met with Hamas-affiliated politicians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that the U.S. position on Hamas is unchanged. Hamas "is designated as a terrorist organization, and we do not have dialogue with designated terrorist organizations," he said.

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