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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 12:36 GMT
EU denies secret talks with Hamas
Javier Solana. Archive picture
Solana said he urged Hamas to end violence
The European Union foreign policy chief has retracted comments made to the BBC that he held secret meetings with the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

Javier Solana had not met Hamas or any other organisation on the EU terrorist list, his office said on Thursday.

He had earlier told the BBC that direct meetings took place "months" ago. Hamas was put on the EU terror list in 2003.

Israel declined to say whether it had approved any talks between Hamas and EU envoys or had any foreknowledge.

Mr Solana's office clarified his comments by saying he was referring to "soundings and impressions conveyed to him but gathered by governments and other parties on the ground".

At no time did Dr Solana wish to imply that direct contacts between himself and Hamas had taken place
Javier Solana's office
Hamas has spearheaded dozens of anti-Israeli attacks during the Palestinian intifada, but it also maintained a temporary ceasefire for seven weeks in 2003.

Israel has killed dozens of Hamas activists in military strikes, including several of its top leaders.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman condemned Hamas as a "enemy of peace" and not as a partner in political talks.

"We think they're part of the problem, not part of the solution," Mark Regev told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

'Clear message'

Mr Solana had told a BBC correspondent in Brussels that meetings took place with Hamas at a time when there seemed to be an opportunity to push for progress.

Hamas gunman in Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza
Many Palestinians view Hamas as defender of their rights
"I have had direct contact with Hamas but not in the last few days," he said.

"Those meetings were not long. They were just to pass a clear message of what the international community wants."

If "they want to help the people in Palestine, they have to lay down the violence and become a political party," Mr Solana added.

Asked how long ago the contact occurred, he said: "Months".

The statement issued by his office said that "at no time did Dr Solana wish to imply that direct contacts between himself and Hamas had taken place".

Mr Solana has a high profile in the Middle East - the EU has been a key partner in constructing the international peace plan known as the roadmap.

Egypt has hosted talks with Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups to try to broker a ceasefire to allow the roadmap to succeed.

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