"Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is a head of a government who is a state sponsor of terrorism that kills young Americans," he said on Thursday.
 
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McCain's own comments followed a speech by George Bush, the US president, in Israel on Thursday in which he compared negotiating with "terrorists" to "appeasement" - the UK's strategy of seeking to negotiate with the Nazis in the 1930s in an attempt to avert conflict.
 
Bush's remark was seen by Obama's campaign as directed at the Illinois senator, and Obama himself said on Friday the comments by both Bush and McCain were "dishonest and divisive''.
 
'Smear' allegation
 
In the 2006 interview McCain said he understood "why this [Bush] administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas ... because of their dedication to violence and the things they not only espouse but practice".
 
"I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that," he said. 
 
In an article for the Washington Post newspaper James Rubin, a former state department official in the Bill Clinton administration who conducted the 2006 interview, pointed out McCain's comments and accused the Arizona senator of hypocrisy and of "smearing" Obama.
 
"Given his stated position then, it is either the height of hypocrisy or a case of political amnesia for McCain to inject Hamas into the American election," he wrote.
 
However a spokesman for McCain on Friday said that the presidential hopeful believed any talks with Hamas would "require mandatory conditions'' and Hamas would have to renounce violence and "abandon its goal of eradicating Israel".
 
Obama previously said in a debate last July that, if elected, he would hold unconditional talks with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.
 
However in April he denounced Hamas as a "terrorist organisation" and said the US should only negotiate with Hamas "if they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements".

Source: Agencies