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Olmert says Haniyeh an enemy, wants to try Meshaal

Written by: Staff

JERUSALEM, Mar 24 (Reuters) Interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Hamas prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh an ''enemy'' and said he hoped one day to put the group's leader-in-exile, Khaled Meshaal, on trial.

In an interview with the YNETnews Web site published today, Olmert said Haniyeh was not currently a target of Israeli forces because there was no evidence he was involved in any acts of ''terror''.

''He is an enemy -- according to his own designation. He does not recognise the existence of Israel and the agreements which have been signed with (Israel), and he also does not recognise Israel's right to exist,'' Olmert said.

Asked if Haniyeh would be targeted, Olmert said: ''He is not a target for anything. Do I have to eliminate every enemy? What reason do I have to eliminate him if he is not involved in terror. And as far as I know, there is no evidence of this.'' Olmert said earlier this month that Israel could target Haniyeh if the senior Hamas leader gets involved in militant attacks.

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz had made a similar threat.

Olmert said Meshaal risked being arrested by Israel if he returned to the Palestinian territories from exile in Damascus.

''I very much hope that he will come to the territories. He will stay there... He will be arrested and put on trial for everything in which he has been involved,'' Olmert said.

Olmert has been talking tough ahead of Israel's general elections on March 28 that his centrist Kadima party is expected to win.

Hamas has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000 and Israel has assassinated some of the group's senior leaders.

But Israel has held off targeting top Hamas officials over the past year since a truce has been in effect.

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