Hamas to Participate in Any Future Palestinian Government, Senior Official Says

Salah al-Bardaweel, a high-ranking Hamas leader in Gaza, refutes press reports that the group may exclude itself from a future government to avoid international isolation.

Hamas will participate in any future Palestinian government, a senior official from the Islamist group said Thursday, refuting press reports that it might opt not to take part in a future administration.

"Nothing would prevent us" from participating in any government after new elections, Salah al-Bardaweel, a high-ranking Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip told the German Press Agency DPA.

Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh

The comments came after earlier media reports Thursday that Hamas might exclude itself from a future government - even if it won in elections - if that helped such a government to avoid international isolation.

"This is totally incorrect and totally untrue," said al- Bardaweel, arguing that the reports were intended to isolate Hamas politically and diplomatically.

Hamas in April agreed to a reconciliation with the secular Fatah, the other major Palestinian bloc, after years of a sometimes bloody stand-off between the two, clearing the way for the two to form a unity government.

But Hamas' participation in any future government could turn into a diplomatic stumbling block for any Palestinian government, as Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist and its refusal to honor past Israeli-Palestinian agreements keeps entities like the United States and the European Union from recognizing it.

Hamas emerged as the surprise victor of 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, beating the secular Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas.

The United State and the European Union almost immediately placed the new government under a diplomatic and political embargo because of Hamas' policies.

A Hamas-led unity government with Fatah, which came unto being in March 2007, did not succeed in ending Hamas' isolation. The coalition itself fell apart in June of that year, when Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip battled security personnel loyal to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, and seized sole control of the salient.

Abbas pulled his faction out of the unity government, but Hamas rejected his dismissal of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya from his post of prime minister. Subsequently, the West Bank and Gaza Strip became divided politically as well as geographically.