Hamas denies storing weapons in Jordan
GAZA, Apr 19: Hamas denied today accusations by Jordan that the Islamic militant group had stored weapons on its territory and said it regretted Amman's cancellation of a visit by the Palestinian foreign minister.
''These accusations are false and completely contradict the well-known Hamas attitude that it does not intervene ... in the internal affairs of other countries,'' Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
A Jordanian government spokesman yesterday said security forces had seized rocket launchers and other weapons from a Hamas arms cache and had scrapped a visit by new Palestinian Foreign Minister and senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar.
The Islamist faction, which is sworn to Israel's destruction and took over the Palestinian government on March 29 after winning January elections, was also accused of using Jordan to engage in anti-Israeli activities.
Palestinian deputy prime minister Naser al-Shaer, also from Hamas, said the new government was not involved.
''We have no information about this incident and we are certain the brethren in Jordan will find out the Palestinians are not involved in such acts,'' Shaer told Reuters.
Zahar is touring Arab states to urgently try to raise funds after the United States and other world powers suspended direct aid, saying Hamas must renounce violence and recognise Israel and past interim peace deals.
''We regret the way the Jordanian government used (this) to justify the cancellation of the visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar at the last moment,'' Abu Zuhri said.
Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has helped mediate some of its negotiations with the Palestinians. Zahar's visit to Jordan would have been the first by a top Hamas leader since the nation expelled the group's leadership in 1999.
Jordanian officials privately support US-led efforts to isolate the Hamas government unless it embraces West Asia peacemaking.
Zahar's first stop late last week was Egypt, which is the only other Arab country to have a peace treaty with Israel, but he was unable to meet its foreign minister, who was out of Cairo at the time. Officials denied Zahar had been snubbed.
Hamas has a large following in Palestinian camps across Jordan.
Much of Jordan's population is of Palestinian origin.