Kaare Eltervaag, who heads the foreign ministry's division for Middle Eastern affairs, told Adwan that Hamas "has not lived up to our expectations," according to a statement on the government Web site.

 

"We realise that it takes time to change attitudes," the statement said. "But the Palestinian government must take clear steps in the right direction."

 

Adwan was in Norway this weekend after a week-long visit to Sweden, where he met eight lawmakers, but no Cabinet members or foreign ministry officials.

 

Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by both the European Union and the United States, and has refused to comply with demands put forth by the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the EU, US, United Nations and Russia - to lay down arms, recognise Israel and accept previous peace agreements with Israel.

Israel protests

"Give us a country, a state, and then ask us to recognise Israel"

Atef Adwan, a minister in the Hamas government

Mark Regev, Israel's foreign ministry spokesman, criticised Norway's decision to hold government-level talks with a Hamas official and said doing so was counter-productive to efforts to push the militant group to change.

 

"Israel strongly regrets the decision by the Norwegian government to become the first European country to grant a meeting to a Hamas official," Regev said. "Hamas has stubbornly refused to accept the international community's benchmarks and granting legitimacy to an unreformed Hamas cannot advance peace."

 

Adwan said earlier this week that Hamas would continue to resist the demands until Palestinians get an independent state.

 

"Give us a country, a state, and then ask us to recognise Israel," he said at a news conference in Stockholm on Tuesday.