Hamas leader says in contact with US: report

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The United States has been in contact with Hamas via a series of envoys but will not admit it, the exiled leader of the Palestinian Islamist group told a British newspaper Monday.

Khaled Meshaal praised Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for meeting him in Damascus earlier this month, and said he told him the United States had also been in talks with him.

"I thanked him for that meeting and told him the Americans contact us, but are not brave enough to do so openly," Meshaal told The Guardian newspaper.

"I am confident that in the very near future, everyone will realise that they will have to deal with Hamas."

Israel reacted angrily to Medvedev's meeting with Meshaal, saying it expected Russia to stand by the Jewish state against "Hamas terror", but the president said no group should be excluded from peace efforts.

Western governments continue to blacklist Hamas, which rules Gaza, as a terrorist group despite its victory in Palestinian elections in 2006.

Israel keeps a tight blockade on Gaza, and on Monday its forces attacked a flotilla of ships manned by pro-Palestinian activists and 10,000 tonnes of aid, reportedly killing up to 19 people and sparking an international ourcry.

© 2010 AFP

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