Hamas presented conditions for future negotiations with Israel during a visit by movement representatives to Moscow over the weekend. Hamas may recognize agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and may even extend the period of calm and the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, but it would not recognize Israel, Khaled Meshal, the chairman of Hamas political bureau, said in Moscow.

Following talks with the Russian Foreign Ministry, Meshal rejected demands that his movement accept the conditions of the international community, and said it was Israel that was not carrying out its obligations. Meshal did not reject out of hand the possibility of future negotiations with Israel but conditioned them on Israel's prior agreement to withdraw to the 1967 borders, to release all prisoners and to accept the Palestinian right of return.

Meshel said there was no possibility of his organization accepting the road map peace plan supported by the Quartet, comprising the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

"We want peace in the region but it will not be attained before the end of the Israeli occupation of the territories," Meshal said. He added that Israel had "practically speaking, rejected the road map and presented 14 conditions for carrying it out, followed by additional conditions that it still insists on."

"We believe that Israel has no right to exist," he added later in remarks to an Arab audience. "Hamas will never take such a step."

Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas's deputy political leader, who is part of the delegation to Moscow, told Reuters in an interview that recognizing Israel would negate all Palestinian rights.

Meshal and other Hamas spokesmen said the Russians did not condition talks with the organization on recognition of Israel nor did they present any other condition.

They said Russia had pledged to use its position as a member of the UN Security Council and the Quartet to mediate between Hamas and the West.

"We presented our positions and we heard Russia's, and this visit was important to the future of our relations with the world," Meshal said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who met with the Hamas delegation on Friday, said the invitation by President Vladimir Putin to Hamas to come to Moscow reflected "Russia's readiness to invest efforts to reach a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

Lavrov called on Hamas to recognize agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and to renounce violence.

"Hamas will have no serious future if it does not understand its new task and move to dismantle its armed faction and meet the conditions of the international community," Lavrov said.

Abu Marzouk said the Moscow visit had achieved important results for Hamas, including "breaking the wall of siege" imposed by the U.S. and Europe since its election win.

"While this breakdown of the siege was done in public, there are several EU countries that are secretly holding contacts with Hamas in one way or another," he said without elaborating.

Abu Marzouk blasted previous Palestinian accords with Israel and said they did not define the Jewish state's borders. "I gave the Russian officials a white sheet and I asked them to draw me a map of the Israel they want me to recognize and nobody was able to draw the map," he said.

Leaders of the Hamas delegation were harshly attacked in the media by leaders of the Chechen underground for coming to the Russian capital in spite of the Russian policy in Chechnya. The Chechens called the Hamas leaders "traitors" to the Islamic interest and the Chechen people.