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Hamas denies ready for two-state solution

Written by: Staff
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Apr 7 (Reuters) Senior Hamas officials today denied reports their new government was ready for a two-state solution with Israel or would present such a proposal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

''This talk is not correct ... Hamas won't change it's thinking and won't introduce such a massive shift in its thinking and risk losing its constituency,'' Deputy Prime Minister Naser al-Shaer told Reuters.

Any readiness to talk about a two-state solution would imply recognition of Israel, which the Islamic militant group is formally sworn to destroy.

Hamas has come under Western pressure to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace deals or risk losing vital aid.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who is also a Hamas leader, is due to meet Abbas later today in Gaza.

''No one will present such a proposal to the president, neither to the government,'' said Shaer, seen as a moderate within the Hamas leadership.

Palestinian cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad added: ''This issue is not on the agenda for the prime minister's meeting with President Abbas.'' Hamas, which defeated Abbas's long-dominant Fatah movement in January elections, has vowed to keep fighting the Jewish state since taking over the Palestinian government last week. It says talks with Israel would be a waste of time.

Israel calls Hamas a terrorist organisation and has vowed not to negotiate with the group.

In an interview with Britain's Times newspaper published on Friday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, said the group was prepared to discuss what was meant by a two-state solution.

Zahar said he wanted clarification on the issue from the ''Quartet'' of West Asia mediators -- the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

''Let us speak about what is the meaning of the two-state solution,'' Zahar was quoted as saying. ''We will ask them what is their concept concerning the two-state solution.'' Earlier this week, Zahar denied referring to a two-state solution to the conflict in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

REUTERS SHR PM1838

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