Hamas leader ready for talks with Fatah, rejects truce offer with Israel
The exiled political chief of Hamas movement reiterated in a Friday speech he was prepared to unconditional talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
"We are ready for an unconditional dialogue in which all issues will be discussed, including that of bringing forward elections. I say to the leaders of Fatah that our differences are political," Khaled Meshaal said, in a speech in Damascus on the 20th anniversary of the founding of Hamas.
"No Arab country has asked Hamas to give up on the current situation in Gaza," Meshaal said, adding the government of Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad should "go."
"Our people must stop this government from selling off Palestinian interests," he added and accused the rulers of the West Bank of hounding Hamas members. "Hamas will resist until the last Israeli soldier leaves Palestinian soil," Meshaal said, according to AFP. "This is a strategic choice. Resistance will continue -- no one can stop it."
He denied there had been contacts between his movement and "the Zionists who are our enemies," and said Hamas had turned down a European proposal for such a meeting to discuss ways of calming the situation. "Gaza is starving and surrounded but it is still resisting," Meshaal said. He called upon "Arab leaders to take a courageous decision in order to lift the embargo" on the impoverished territory.
The Hamas leader also said an Israeli soldier seized by armed groups in a cross-border raid on June 15, 2006, would not be freed unilaterally. "We will not free Gilad Shalit unless our prisoners are released" by Israel, he said.
Mashaal said that a recent U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Md., had not stopped the building of settlements in Palestinian territories nor improved the lives of Palestinians, noting that 560 Israeli checkpoints are still in place. He added that this leaves his people with no choice but to fight.
"Give our people another alternative. As long as the horizons are closed and there are no other alternatives then there is nothing our people can do other than resistance," he added, according to the AP.
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