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Reactions to the Hamas Victory in Palestinian Elections


Hamas, the Islamic militant group sworn to destroy the state of Israel, has won Wednesday's Palestinian election. The United States and other nations have long classified Hamas as a terrorist organization and refused to deal with its members. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports on the reaction to the Hamas victory from U.S. President George W. Bush and others around the world.

President Bush called the Palestinian election a "wakeup call" to Palestinian leaders, adding that democracy can also "open up the world's eyes to reality."

Mr. Bush said the vote gave Palestinians the opportunity to express desire for honest government and good social services, such as health care and education. The president also said it is too early to comment about U.S. cooperation with a Hamas government.

"I made it very clear that the United States does not support political parties that want to destroy our ally Israel, and that people must renounce that part of their platform. But the government hasn't formed yet. They're beginning to talk about how to form the government.

Israeli leaders withheld immediate comment on the election and acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called an emergency security meeting to discuss the results.

An Arab member of Israel's Knesset, Abdel Malek Dahamshe, predicts that Hamas will be pragmatic in its use of power. "I remember that chief [Yasser] Arafat sometime told me that only Sharon could do peace with the Palestinians and I say now that only Hamas can do peace with Israel."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said any group that participates in a democratic process should disarm.

European leaders say Hamas risks international isolation unless it renounces the use of violence. Before the election, the European Union's External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, put it this way. "The most important thing is that we will work with whatever government is elected if this government is prepared to work with peaceful means towards a peace agreement."

Iran's Foreign Ministry says the Palestinian vote will strengthen resistance against Israel. Most Arab countries have been slow to react, but one Cairo resident offered his own summary of the election. "It's normal that the American administration wouldn't approve because it's well known that Hamas opposes the U.S. and doesn't approve of the U.S. policies. But this doesn't mean that we have to comply with the U.S. administration or that this is in the best interests of the Palestinians."

Asked whether the Hamas victory means an end to the Middle East peace process, President Bush said, "Peace is never dead because people want peace."

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