Merkel puts pressure on Hamas during visit

30th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

30 January 2006, GAZA/RAMALLAH - Under pressure for its hardline stance toward Israel, the Islamic Hamas movement, victor in last week's Palestinian elections, pleaded Monday for Western states to open a dialogue with it and transfer funds to the cash-starved Palestinian Authority.

30 January 2006

GAZA/RAMALLAH - Under pressure for its hardline stance toward Israel, the Islamic Hamas movement, victor in last week's Palestinian elections, pleaded Monday for Western states to open a dialogue with it and transfer funds to the cash-starved Palestinian Authority.

Hamas won an emphatic victory in Wednesday's parliamentary election in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the United States and other Western countries have said they will not deal with the organization until it lays down its arms - the movement has carried out hundreds of attacks against Israel - and changes its charter to recognise the Jewish state.

Visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized these points during a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Monday afternoon, and added that Hamas also had to accept all agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority.

"It is unimaginable that Germany could recognise an administration which does not recognise Israel," she said.

But Hamas leader Isma'eel Haneya told a news conference in Gaza City that his movement had sent a letter to the so-called Quartet of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union asking for direct talks to be held without preconditions, and pledged that any financial aid received would not go to Palestinian militants.

The Quartet - which sponsored the international road map peace plan which Hamas rejected - was slated to meet to discuss the consequences of Hamas' election victory, which will most likely see the militant movement form the next Palestinian government.

In the wake of the Hamas triumph, Israel decided Sunday night not to transfer customs duties collected on behalf of the Palestinians - totalling some 43 million U.S. dollars - saying it would not finance attacks on Israelis.

Haneya said in his Monday news conference that aid received from the West would be used only for civilian purposes. "No amount of money will be spent on other affairs and together we can agree on procedures that can ensure this," he said.

"All Palestinian income from the donors, taxes and customs will flow into the Palestinian Ministry of Finance (and) spent according to the priorities of the Palestinian people," he said.

Haneya, who was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Wednesday at the head of the Hamas list, called on the Quartet "to respect the choice of the Palestinian people."

President Mahmoud Abbas, who some observers had expected to quit after his Fatah party was humiliated in the elections, said Monday he would continue in office and would begin talks - most likely in two weeks - with Hamas on the formation of a new government.

Haneya said Hamas would be better than Fatah at implementing reform in the Palestinian Authority, and would work towards minimizing the suffering of the Palestinian people.

The movement was seeking to build a political programme based on pluralism, respect for the law and human rights, he said.

Many observers have attributed Fatah's humiliating election defeat in large part to the corruption, nepotism and anarchy which prevailed in the Palestinian areas when it was in power.

On Monday morning dozens of armed Palestinian policemen firing in the air stormed the Gaza annex of the PLC.

They said their action was a message to the incoming Palestinian cabinet to bring to justice those Hamas members accused of killing policeman Rajeh Abu Lehya several months ago.

The demonstrators also called for the resignation of the Central Committee of the Fatah, whom they blamed for the movement's election meltdown.

The storming of the PLC annex in Gaza follows similar actions Sunday in Ramallah and in Gaza.

Gunmen also stormed an EU office in Gaza City protesting the publication of what they regarded as anti-Muslim cartoons in a Danish newspaper, witnesses said.

The gunmen broke into the office and demanded its employees close it down.

In a statement to reporters, Hamas called for Islamic nations to boycott Danish products because of the cartoons, which it deemed insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

DPA

Subject: German news

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