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Senior Egyptian Official Says Hamas Must Renounce Violence


There are conflicting reports from the Middle East about whether the Palestinian president will require the militant group Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel before forming a new Palestinian government.

Egyptian officials said it is a coincidence that senior delegations from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas were in Egypt on the same day for talks with President Mubarak and other senior Egyptian leaders.

But it is clear that all sides are looking for help in the frenzied leadership negotiations that have been going on since Hamas won a resounding victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections last week.

After the meeting between Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Abbas, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told reporters that the Palestinian president would not invite Hamas to form a government if it does not renounce violence and recognize Israel.

"They have to be committed in three issues," he said. "First, they have to stop the violence, no violence. Everything should be by negotiation. Secondly, they have to be committed also with all the agreements which the Palestinian authority has signed. Everything. Thirdly, they have to recognize the existence of Israel. This is the three conditions on the table now."

Suleiman said if Hamas does not do those things "no one will deal with them."

But a senior Palestinian official close to Mr. Abbas quickly denied that the Palestinian president had set those conditions.

The Egyptian intelligence chief also said that he believes Iran will finance the Palestinian Authority if other international donors, like the European Union, withdraw their funding, as they have threatened to do if Hamas does not acknowledge Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also met with Mr. Mubarak on her first foreign trip since taking office. She said she hopes Egypt, as a leader in the Arab world, can help bring stability to the situation, which she said is in everyone's interest.

"There is a need for the international community now to speak in a very clear and loud voice saying and putting, what we call, the conditions for any kind of future Palestinian government," she said.

But her Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, declined to categorize the talks with Hamas as setting conditions. He indicated that he thought the militant group could be convinced to change its longstanding demand for the elimination of Israel.

"The word conditions is out of our vocabulary," he said. "Why is it so? Because we do not put conditions. We persuade people to move from one position to another and we are sure that eventually when you come to power, and when you deal with a situation, and when you have to deal with the Israelis, and when you have to engage on daily basis on issues related to the interests of the people and the prosperity of the people, then things will change."

As he spoke, a senior delegation from Hamas was making its way toward Cairo for more talks with senior Egyptian officials.

President Mubarak's spokesman told reporters that the results of the Palestinian election represent what he called "a new reality" that everyone - Israelis, Palestinians and the international community - will have to deal with.

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