Hamas chooses new Palestinian PM as group says it will cease armed struggle once Israel ends occupation
Hamas announced on Monday that it had chosen a member of the movement to serve as the Palestinian prime minster when the new government is formed.
Mushir Al Masri, a spokesman for Hamas, told reporters, "The prime minister will be a leader in Hamas," according to Reuters. According to AlHayat newspaper, the movement selected Ismail Haniyeh to the prime ministry post.
Also on Monday, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stated that if Israel were to withdraw from occupied Palestinian territory, Hamas would end its armed struggle against it. The statement marks a significant change in the movement's stance towards armed resistance in that it had in the past only agreed to a "long-term truce" with Israel under the same conditions.
In an interview in the Russian daily, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Meshaal said, "If Israel recognizes our rights and pledges to withdraw from all occupied lands, Hamas, and the Palestinian people together with it, will decide to halt armed resistance," reported the AFP.
Meshaal, who is based in Damascus, also stated in the interview that Hamas was not bound to the international Middle-East roadmap for peace, pointing out that neither side was abiding by it.
"Since no one is abiding by the dispositions of the roadmap, the Palestinians also feel it is not expedient to adhere to it," he said.
In a move viewed as controversial by Israel and the US, Russian President Vladimir Putin last week invited Hamas representatives to visit Moscow to discuss developments in the Middle East and the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations.
The move was greeted by leaders of Hamas who have been largely shunned by Europe thus far for their stance towards Israel.
© 2006 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)