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Hamas seeks talks to clarify two-state solution

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Apr 7 (Reuters) Hamas is prepared to discuss the concept of a two-state solution to the West Asia conflict that would recognise Israel's right to exist, the Palestinian foreign minister said in comments published today.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, who is also a senior Hamas leader, said he wanted clarification on the two-state proposal from the ''Quartet'' of West Asia mediators -- the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

Hamas, which swept parliamentary elections in January, is sworn to destroy Israel. But Western states say they will cut off aid to the Palestinians unless Hamas renounces violence, recognises Israel and abides by interim peace agreements.

''Let us speak about what is the meaning of the two-state solution,'' Zahar said in an interview with Britain's Times newspaper. ''We will ask them what is their concept concerning the two-state solution.

''What is the concept in the Quartet about the two-state solution and on what basis?'' Earlier this week, Zahar denied referring to a two-state solution to the conflict in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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

Zahar said his government would examine the Quartet's response and may gauge Palestinian voters' opinions.

''We are going to discuss that in the legislative council and after that we may need (to ask) the general attitudes of our people,'' he told the Times, according to a transcript of the interview on the paper's Web site (www.timesonline.co.uk).

Hamas, which has carried out dozens of suicide bombings against Israel in a 5-year-old uprising, won a big majority on a platform focusing on its charity work and corruption-free image.

Reuters PG VP0705

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