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Exiled Leader of Hamas Says Israel Is a Reality, Will Remain

The exiled leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas has told the Reuters news agency that Israel is a "reality" and will remain.

In an interview, Khaled Mashaal said the Palestinians want a state on what he called "1967 borders." He said there will be an entity called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land.

He said Hamas will consider recognizing Israel once the Palestinian state is established.

In Washington, a senior administration official says the U.S. is examining the remarks to see if there is "a qualitative difference" from past comments by the group that controls the Palestinian government.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz says this is the first time a Hamas official has raised the possibility of recognizing Israel and the first time the group's Syria-based leadership has said that Israel's existence is an undeniable reality.

In the interview, Mashaal also says Hamas wants to revive negotiations on a unity government with the Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Negotiations failed last year. Mr. Abbas's call for early elections has sparked street battles between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In the interview, Mashaal says a unity government must be headed by the current prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas.

Hamas won power in elections in the Palestinian territories last year.

Western nations suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority because the group refuses to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept prior agreements with the Jewish state.

The Hamas charter calls for Israel's destruction.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.