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Hamas Leaders Meeting in Cairo


Leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas are in Cairo for talks with Egyptian leaders and each other. The group is trying to form a government, after winning a major victory in the recent parliamentary election. But unless it renounces violence, it could have trouble funding that government, as international donors withdraw.

Hamas leaders, based in both the Gaza Strip and Syria, are in Cairo, trying to form a government and possibly build a coalition with the secular Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Some Hamas leaders cannot enter the Palestinian territories, so the meetings cannot take place there.

Hamas leaders acknowledge that funding will be a major problem for a Hamas government. Israel has decided to cut off monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, once the militant group takes charge. The European Union is threatening to withdraw its funding, as well, if Hamas does not renounce violence.

Hamas political bureau member Mohammed Nazal said he is confident that Hamas will be able to raise enough money from Arab and Muslim nations to fund the government.

"First of all, we are starting the round of Arab and Islamic countriesn," Mr. Nazal says. "And we are discussing with our friends and our allies about this problem. But we are sure that they cannot defeat Hamas in this track -- I mean, Israelis and Americans and Europeans. Because, they think that by cutting the funds, they can defeat Hamas, but we accepted the challenge. We believe that we can get funds from some Arabs and Muslims."

Hamas leaders are also in talks with senior Egyptian officials, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian point man on Palestinian affairs. Last week, he told reporters that Hamas would have to renounce violence, recognize Israel, and promise to uphold the Palestinian Authority's existing agreements.

Late Sunday, Hamas senior deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk said Hamas will abide by the Authority's agreements, at least for now, but he rejected the recognition of Israel.

Hamas officials based in Damascus are seen as more radical than their colleagues from Gaza and the West Bank, who are considered more open to the idea of negotiating with Israel.

Mohammed Nazal denied that there are policy differences, but acknowledged that the meetings are working on presenting a united front.

"We want to say that the Hamas inside territories and outside territories, they have one position," Mr. Nazal says. "This is why we are meeting here in Cairo ... we have one position. .... We have different opinions of course, because we are human beings. But finally we have one position."

Hamas leaders from the West Bank are not attending the meetings in the Egyptian capital, because they have no way of getting here.

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