Haniyeh Blasts Rice for Bringing 'Perilous Vision' to Middle East

Palestinian PM: Hamas will never recognize Israel; Olmert: Yes to 3-way summit, but bilateral talks must go on.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Monday accused U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of bringing a "perilous vision" to the region, shortly after she announced plans to join an Israeli-Palestinian summit in the coming weeks.

Later Monday, Haniyeh said Hamas would never recognize Israel.

Haniyeh said in an interview from Gaza with Hezbollah's al-Manar television: "Hamas will never recognize the legitimacy of the occupation (Israel)."

"Hamas will never show flexibility over the issue of recognizing the legitimacy of the occupation," he added.

Haniyeh also said there had been "an encouraging start" to efforts aimed at forming a Palestinian national unity government with rival movement Fatah.

"I am full of hope that these efforts could succeed and I hope that the national unity government could see the light in the nearest time possible if the intentions were honest," he said.

Haniyeh renewed his rejection of Abbas's election call.

He said Hamas would never agree to conditions set by Western powers, which also included accepting previous interim peace accords signed in the 1990s by the Palestine Liberation Organization with Israel.

Haniyeh also confirmed for the first time that factions had listed jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi among those they wanted freed. Barghouthi was jailed by an Israeli court for five life terms for ordering attacks on Israelis - as part of a Palestinian uprising which erupted in 2000 - charges he denied.

Israel has in the past refused to free prisoners with "blood on their hands."

Haniyeh said Rice, who is in the Middle East in hopes of restarting peace efforts, is trying to "sedate" the Palestinians with promises of easing Israeli restrictions while really serving Israel's interests.

"She is bringing a perilous vision that everyone should be wary of," Haniyeh said. "It seems obvious the Bush administration will not exert any pressures on Israel to offer any substantial concessions to the Palestinian people."

Rice is seeking to bolster the moderate Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in his standoff against Hamas. Those efforts include more than $80 million in assistance to Abbas' Presidential Guard.

Haniyeh called the aid to Abbas "dangerous" and said it would only worsen recent infighting between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that while he was in favor of a three-way summit, bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians must also continue.

U.S. officials said after Olmert's three-hour meeting with Rice on Monday that the two had agreed to hold a three-way summit with Abbas in the near future.

Olmert said that the summit would "consider relations between us and the Palestinians," but added that "there is no doubt that we must - at the same time - also continue the bilateral meetings between us and them."

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas was ready to attend the summit "in principle," but details about where and when the summit would be held were not worked out.

Erekat said Rice is reflecting a serious and genuine interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. "What she said is that President Bush, in the remaining two years of his office, has no more important priority than to leave office with a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He wants to see his vision realized," he said.

A senior U.S. official in Rice's delegation said the "trilateral meeting" would be aimed at "having a conversation about the political horizon leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state."

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, said no date or place had been set for the summit.

The U.S. official said the meeting would likely take place in the next three or four weeks somewhere in the Middle East.

Speaking to his Kadima faction after meeting with Rice, Olmert said that the internationally brokered road map continues to be the basis for the peace process, and that there was "no substitute for bilateral negotiations" with the Palestinians.

He said that if a Palestinian unity government made up of Hamas and Fatah agreed to accept the three key international demands for recognition of Israel, the renunciation of violence and acceptance of previous accords, then negotiations could be possible.

No details of the talks between Olmert and Rice were formally released, but the prime minister had been expected to tell the secretary of state that Israel would take "unprecedented steps" vis-a-vis the Palestinians, if the Hamas-led PA government met the criteria spelled out by the Quartet.

The meeting between Olmert and Rice was also called to discuss ways to boost Abbas' standing, as a means to further the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians.

The prime minister was to stress that his is a "peace government" but without the Palestinians meeting the three international preconditions it is impossible to more forward.

Olmert was also expected to warn that the establishment of a Palestinian government of national unity, which does not adopt the preconditions set by the Quartet, will bring an end to Israel's efforts to support Abbas.

On Sunday, Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet that the violence between Fatah and Hamas, which led to the deaths of 20 people last week, was considered by the Palestinians as crossing a "red line." He added that this could result in greater flexibility on the part of the factions in agreeing on a government of national unity.

Political sources in Jerusalem said on Sunday that "the Palestinians are now talking about the division of ministerial portfolios in the new government, without committing themselves to accept the Quartet preconditions."

Meanwhile, in an interview on Channel 10 on Sunday, Rice said the road map must be implemented and there is no reason to skip over any of its stages. Her comment was in part referring to an earlier rejection by Abbas of the idea that the second stage of the road map - calling for a Palestinian state based on temporary borders - was a realistic possibility at this stage.

She also said that in her talks with Abbas on Sunday, he had reiterated his wish and willingness to carry out Palestinian obligations laid out in the road map.

Following their meeting in Ramallah on Sunday, Abbas announced that he would not agree to a Palestinian state within temporary borders, as is proposed in the second stage of the road map. "We do not consider this possibility a realistic one that we can build on," the Palestinian leader said.

Other Palestinian officials also voiced their opposition to such an arrangement, saying that it would stymie progress toward a final settlement.

Rice said that the U.S. intends to deepen its involvement in the peace process, aiming to restart it on the basis of the road map.

There have been reports in recent days that a summit of the leaderships of both Fatah and Hamas is being organized in Damascus, with the specific aim of finalizing an agreement for a national unity government. Abbas denied that any such meeting is scheduled to take place.

According to the reports, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Sheikh Mohammed Akef, was instrumental in convincing Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas' political bureau, and Abbas to meet in order to iron out their differences.