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Middle East
Hamas rejects al-Zawahiri's claims
Group denies al-Qaeda deputy's charge that it has surrendered Palestinians' rights.
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2007 00:19 GMT

Fresh violence erupted in Gaza before the talks between Abbas and Olmert in Jerusalem  [Reuters]

Hamas has rejected accusations by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's deputy leader, of "surrender" for agreeing to form a Palestinian national unity government.
 
Al-Zawahiri said Hamas had "fallen into the swamp of surrender" by accepting a Saudi-brokered deal with the US-backed Fatah in Mecca, in an audio recording broadcast by Al Jazeera on Sunday.
"The leadership of Hamas surrendered to the Jews most of Palestine" to keep a grip on the Palestinian government, al-Zawahiri said.
 
But Osama Hamdan, a Hamas representative in Lebanon, told Al Jazeera: "Hamas has not and will not compromise on Palestine or the rights of the Palestinian people."
Hamas and Fatah agreed in Mecca a month ago to forge a coalition cabinet, largely ending factional fighting centred in the Gaza Strip that had killed more than 90 people.

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Al-Zawahiri said: "Hamas has sold out so it can keep a hold of a third of government".
 
"But what government? A government that doesn't even have the right to enter or leave [the Palestinian territories] without Israeli permission."
 
He said: "The leadership of Hamas government has committed an aggression against the rights of the Islamic nation by accepting what it called ... respecting international agreements.
 
"I am sorry to have to offer the Islamic nation my condolences for the [virtual demise] of the Hamas leadership as it has fallen in the quagmire of surrender."
 
But Hamas's Osama noted that the Mecca agreement was supported by most of the respected leaders in the Muslim world and would not be undermined by a comment from anyone who was not aware of all the facts and political developments.
 
"If anyone wishes to express reservations on the Mecca agreement, we respect that but at the same time we affirm that Hamas would never accept to be dealt with as if the movement is not rational and needs guidance from someone."
 
"Hamas has managed to withstand an unfair blockade for a year now. This blockade on Hamas could have been lifted if Hamas agreed to recognise the Zionist entity [Israel], but Hamas will never recognise Israel," he added.
 
'Little progress'
 
Hamas, which came to power in January 2006, refuses to recognise Israel - a stance which has led to Western countries boycotting the Hamas-led Palestinian government after its electoral win in January 2005.
 
Al-Zawahiri's and Osama's comments came as Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and head of Fatah, were reported to have made little progress during talks in Jerusalem.
 

The two men met in Olmert's official residence on Sunday hours after violent clashes took place between Hamas and Fatah fighters in Gaza.

Olmert has already said he will boycott any unity government that fails to recognise Israel's right to exist. 

But he also promised to keep channels of communication open and officials said more talks between the two men were likely to take place.

Olmert and Abbas last met on February 19 in trilateral talks with Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, that ended with no sign of progress towards resuming peace talks that ended six years ago.

 

The unity deal, reached last month in the Saudi city of Mecca, only agrees to "respect" past agreements, falling short of international conditions.
 

"The Israeli government has expressed its disappointment over the Mecca accord and has not changed its position," Olmert told his cabinet before the summit on Sunday.

 

"We hope that the Palestinian government that is to be formed will accept the Quartet principles," he said, referring to the group of Middle East mediators comprising the UN, US, EU and Russia.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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