Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hamas 'ready to talk with Obama'

Hamas is ready to talk with American President-elect Barack Obama, the leader of the Palestinian group has said.

Khaled Meshal congratulated Mr Obama and hailed his election as "a big change" both politically and psychologically.

He insisted that the US had "no option" but to end its boycott of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, if it wanted to make progress on peace in the Middle East.

During his election campaign, Mr Obama made clear he was ready to talk to America's enemies, such as Iran, but drew the line at Hamas, which is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation.

Criticising former President Jimmy Carter's contacts with Hamas in April, Mr Obama said: "We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel's destruction.

"We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terrorism, recognise Israel's right to exist and abide by past agreements."

But Mr Meshal insisted that Hamas did not pose a danger to anyone.

Speaking at his base in Syria, Mr Meshal told Sky News: "We are ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration with an open mind on the basis that the American administration respects our rights and our options.

"The American administration, if they want to deal with the region, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have no other option than deal with Hamas, because we are a real effective force on the ground, and we are a movement that won a majority of votes in the election.

"Second of all, it's not right that Hamas poses any danger to anyone."

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