Meshal: Upcoming Middle East Conference Is Doomed to Fail

Hamas chief: Outcome will be leaning towards Israel's best interest because 'Olmert is the stronger side.'

DAMASCUS - The U.S.-sponsored international conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace is doomed to fail because it will serve only Israel's interests, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal said in a CNN interview broadcast on Monday.

Calling the gathering, expected in November, "a meeting controlled and directed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice", Meshal, who lives in Damascus, said neither Israel nor the United States was serious about achieving peace.

"There is no doubt that the outcome will be leaning towards Israel's best interest because [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert is the stronger side in the negotiations," Meshal said, according to CNN's translation of his comments in Arabic.

"All these reasons are going to lead to a failure," said Meshal, who was injected with poison by Israeli agents in Jordan in 1997 but was saved by an antidote sent from Israel after his attackers were overpowered and arrested.

"The American administration is fighting Hamas and working on isolating it," Meshal said in the interview, which CNN reported was held in a heavily guarded Hamas safe house in the Syrian capital.

But Meshal said Washington, which supports Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, would eventually realize it would have to deal with Hamas for the sake of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

"I only want to tell them to take a short cut and not waste their efforts," he said, while acknowledging that a U.S. invitation to Hamas to attend the upcoming conference was unlikely.

Meshal called on the international community to deal with "the reality of the Palestinian arena" - an apparent reference to Hamas's strong influence - and move the Middle East closer to "genuine peace" in which "the waterfall of blood will stop."

Regarding abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Meshal said Hamas was treating him humanely.

"We did not blackmail Israel, and we gave free information to Gilad Shalit's father and his family that Gilad Shalit is still alive," Meshal was quoted by CNN as saying. "When he asked us to bring him a medical glasses for his sight, we did so as humanitarian duty. We treat Gilad Shalit in a humanitarian way that is in line with the Palestinians' morals."