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Hamas Official Hints Group Might Enter Cease-fire Talks - 2003-06-22

Israel's killing of a top Hamas official it said was linked to a series of attacks on Israelis is the latest threat to the Mideast peace process.

Leaders of Hamas vow the killing will not go unpunished. But a top member of the group's political wing in Gaza believes Hamas remains willing to take part in cease-fire talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Appearing on American television, Ismail Abu Shanab said conditions set by Hamas for a cease-fire are well known and have not changed. The U.S.-designated terrorist group wants Israel to end targeted assassinations and withdraw from Gaza. "We gave this offer many times before this opportunity. So the possibility [for a cease-fire] is there," he said.

Speaking on ABC's This Week, the Hamas official denounced the killing of Abdullah Qawasmeh, who was shot by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Appearing on the same broadcast, Jordan's King Abdullah said violence on both sides is a problem for those who seek peace. He was then asked if the Palestinian prime minister has the ability to crack down on militant groups like Hamas. "Prime Minister Abbas has very limited security capability, and so we have to make sure no undue pressure is put on him," he said.

King Abdullah went on to clarify his remarks, saying Mr. Abbas must be held to account, but those who want peace must offer him their support as he builds a security infrastructure that can take on terrorists. He said improving the everyday life of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is also key.

"At the moment, the people have nothing to hope for, so Hamas has a good [effective] rallying cry," King Abdullah said.

The Jordanian leader said he remains optimistic the new peace plan put forward by the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations can ultimately yield results. But he said extremists on both sides could still derail the so-called "road map" through assassinations and terrorist attacks.