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Jordan says Hamas trains recruits in Syria and Iran

Written by: Staff

AMMAN, May 10 (Reuters) Jordan today said that Hamas had tried to recruit activists for military training in Syria and Iran to stage possible attacks in Jordan and said it had found new weapons that included Iranian rocket launchers.

Government spokesman Nasser Joudeh told reporters details of then plot were revealed during interrogations of 20 Hamas militants arrested by security forces last month.

''Hamas was attempting to recruit elements in the Jordanian arena and trying to recruit elements from abroad to send to Syria and Iran to get military training,'' Joudeh said.

Jordan said last month rocket launchers, detonators and explosives seized from a secret Hamas arms cache in the kingdom had been smuggled from Syria, where the Palestinian militant group's exiled leadership is based.

Joudeh said authorities were still searching for other arms caches that Hamas had hidden across the country.

''The security forces believe there are more weapons and rocket launchers that have not been uncovered yet ... Among the weapons seized recently were Iranian rocket launchers,'' he said.

''This poses a major threat to the national security of the country and we will hold those behind this accountable,'' Joudeh said.

After the arms cache discovery, Jordan cancelled a planned visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, which would have been the first by a Hamas leader since 1999.

A week later it said a group of Hamas activists arrested by its security forces were close to staging attacks on senior Jordanian officials on orders from its Syrian-based leadership.

CONFESSIONS A Hamas leader in Gaza said Jordan's new accusations were fabricated and aimed at raising tension.

''Hamas is sorry that Jordan is dealing (with Hamas) in this manner, making the issue bigger than it is,'' said Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri.

Hamas has repeatedly denied accusations its members are involved in arms smuggling to Jordan from Syria and said it would not join a committee set up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to investigate the case with Jordanian officials.

Joudeh said a team headed by Tareq Abu Rajab, the Palestinian intelligence chief, began talks today with top Jordanian security officials and was shown hard evidence to back up Amman's claims against Hamas.

The government said it would soon televise confessions by Hamas activists to quell widespread scepticism by ordinary Jordanians that the government has trumped up the charges as a pretext to sever ties with the Palestinian militant group.

Jordanian officials privately support U S-led efforts to isolate the Hamas government that took power after winning January elections, unless it embraces West Asia peacemaking.

Hamas has many supporters in Palestinian camps in Jordan, which hosts the largest number of refugees outside the West Bank and Gaza.


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