Hamas Lawmakers Say Will Not Recognize Israel, Hold Talks

Senior Russian official says Moscow expects Hamas to announce it recognizes Israel.

SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan - Two Hamas lawmakers on Sunday dismissed any future peace talks with Israel, calling past negotiations "a failed experiment" and said Arab nations had rejected U.S. pressure to force the militant Palestinian movement to moderate.

Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Saeed Syiam made the comments during a gathering of Arab parliamentarians on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea.

Speaking to The Associated Press on the sidelines of the conference, Zahar asserted that Hamas' recent upset victory in last month's legislative elections strengthened its hardline stand.

"We don't consider the Israeli enemy a partner. By winning the elections, we defeated Israel," he said. "Why should we recognize Israel? Pressure is coming from the United States on us, not from Arab countries."

He said negotiations between the previous Palestinian government and Israel "a failed experience that would not be repeated."

Syiam pointed to the refusal by Arab heavyweights, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - key Mideast U.S. allies - to support a U.S. financial boycott of Hamas as it takes control of the Palestinian parliament. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the failed appeal during her visit to the region last week.

"Rice's visit was provocative, but we found that the Arab position was so firm that she wasn't able to change their views," Syiam told AP.

Syiam said that difficulties faced by exiled Hamas leaders prohibited from entering Jordan, such as Khaled Mashaal, could be solved by talks with the Jordanian authorities.

But Zahar added that "no contacts with government officials have yet taken place. We hope that Jordan's doors will be open for our brothers abroad."

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, upon arrival in Amman, told journalists that "it is necessary to support Hamas because they are the choice of the Palestinian people."

Moussa, who is expected to participate in the Arab lawmaker's conference, said Hamas has the right to be given the full opportunity to form a new government and work for national unity because it was democratically elected."

Our support to the Palestinian people doesn't change with a change in government, he added.

Moscow expects Hamas recognition of IsraelA senior Russian diplomat said Sunday that Moscow expects Hamas to make a clear pledge to recognize Israel, a news agency reported. The announcement came as Hamas's prime minister-designate Sunday denied he had suggested the Palestinian Islamist group might one day recognize Israel.

Alexander Kalugin, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special envoy to the Middle East, said that Hamas should outline approaches to recognition of Israel in its action plan. "The main thing is that they should clearly speak on the issue of recognizing the state of Israel," Kalugin said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal will head a delegation set to arrive in Moscow on March 3, the Islamic militant group said in a statement posted on its Web site Friday. Kalugin said that the Hamas delegation is expected to arrive in Moscow "at the end of the first week of March."

Haniyeh denies Washington Post quotesHamas's prime minister-designate Sunday denied he had suggested the Palestinian Islamist group might one day recognize Israel, saying there was only a possibility of achieving a long-term truce.

The Washington Post quoted Ismail Haniyeh as saying in an interview: "If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them."

But Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza that he "did not tackle the issue of recognizing (Israel) in my interview with the Washington Post".

At the weekend, Haniyeh was quoted as saying Hamas is "ready to recognize" Israel if it gives the Palestinian people their full rights and a state in lands occupied since 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Hamas hopes to complete forming a Palestinian government within two weeks.

"If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them," the Post quoted him in an interview posted on its Web site on Saturday.

Haniyeh did not say what form the recognition would take.

Haniyeh was also quoted as saying Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction, was ready to consider talks with Israel if the Jewish state withdrew from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and recognized the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees who fled in the 1948 war and their descendants.

Mofaz: Hamas is trying to sweet-talk"Hamas is trying to mislead the international community, to sweet-talk it and to exhibit an appearance of responsibility," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch on Sunday.

Mofaz was referring to the statements attributed to Haniyeh. "The simple fact is that they have not accepted any of the four rules, and this indicates their true intentions," Mofaz told Welch.

Mofaz was referring to the four conditions dictated by the Quartet to the Hamas: disarming, recognizing Israel, rejecting terror and changing the organization's charter.

Mofaz warned that Hamas' recent contacts with Iran may formalize Iran's control of the Palestinian Authority.

Regarding aid to the PA, Mofaz said that Israel would not take any steps that could harm the Palestinian population. "The correct mechanism is to examine each case separately, and to transfer funds only after a comprehensive examination," he said.

Welch is to meet Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert later Sunday to discuss American and Israeli policy regarding overtures and aid to a prospective Palestinian government led by Hamas.

The sides are expected to agree on a "Hamas bypass route" which will allow Washington to channel aid funds directly to humanitarian organizations in the territories, or to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, rather than to a Hamas-led Palestinian government, Army Radio reported Sunday.

Welch will also meet Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.