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Arab League chief urges Hamas to recognise Israel

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BRUSSELS, Feb 22 (Reuters) Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa today urged Palestinian poll-winner Hamas to recognise Israel by backing a 2002 Arab peace formula calling for independent Israeli and Palestinian states.

''The Arab initiative is the proper door for Hamas to recognise the peace process in general with all its tenets,'' Moussa told a European Parliament hearing in Brussels.

''This is the recognition that is needed -- recognition by both parties of the two states,'' he said.

Arab leaders launched in 2002 a peace initiative which offered Israel normal relations in return for withdrawal to 1967 borders -- something Israel has repeatedly rejected.

The UN Security Council, the United States and European Union have all called on Hamas to recognise Israel and abandon violence, with Washington and the EU warning that key aid is hanging on their stance in government.

Hamas has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in Israel since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000 but has largely abided by a ceasefire forged a year ago.

Some leaders of the Muslim world expected Hamas to switch its stance after winning the January 25 elections, but Hamas officials have insisted they will not recognise Israel under current conditions.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is currently on a Middle East tour designed to persuade friendly Arab states to refuse financial aid to Hamas unless it changes its stance.

Reuters SHR GC1827

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