Hamas officials gather in Cairo for Palestinian talks

A top Hamas official said the militant group will abide by past agreements Palestinian leaders made with Israel as it strives to create a ruling coalition after a stunning election victory.

He also cautioned that no deal was eternal and Hamas would end any past deals it believed were illogical or unfair.

The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, the right-hand man to Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashaal, came as Hamas leaders from Syria and Palestinian areas gathered in Cairo yesterday for talks to try to hammer out a power-sharing deal between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah party.

Marzouk said he had met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah’s leader, and that Abbas did not insist Hamas had to recognise Israel or make other concessions before Fatah would negotiate a deal to form the next Palestinian government.

Speaking of past peace deals between the Palestinians and Israel, Marzouk said: “There is no authority that inherits another authority without abiding by the agreements already made. But the other party also should be committed to the agreements.”

He said Hamas would review all past deals.

“If the agreements contradict logic and rights, there are legal measures to be taken … there are no eternal agreements,” he said.

Israel’s acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said he would work with Abbas as long as he did not join forces with Hamas. Olmert also said Israel would continue transferring monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas was not in control.

Mashaal said yesterday in Damascus that he also would go to Egypt at the start of an Arab tour seeking support for his group, two weeks after it won a landslide in Palestinian elections. He told reporters that Hamas “is keen to form a national coalition government”.

Mashaal did not say whether he was going to meet Abbas, and it was not clear if Mashaal had yet arrived in Cairo.

Hamas is under growing international pressure to renounce its violent ideology and recognise Israel’s right to exist as a condition for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid – the lifeline of the Palestinian economy.

Western powers have said they will not fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government otherwise.

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman said last week that Egypt intends to tell Hamas leaders that they must recognise Israel, disarm and honour past peace deals.

Israel agreed Sunday to transfer £30.6m (€44.8m) in desperately-needed tax money to the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s monthly transfer of the taxes and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinians is crucial to the functioning of the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli Cabinet decided to transfer the money because Hamas was not yet in the government, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said.

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