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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 14:00 GMT
Hamas 'in contact' with EU and US
Khaled Meshal
Meshal leads Hamas from his Damascus headquarters
The political leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas has said that it has had secret contacts with the United States and the European Union.

In an interview with the BBC's Newsnight programme, Khaled Meshal said the "EU continues to have contacts and communications with us".

He also claimed that Washington had had contact with his organisation in recent months.

Both Washington and the EU class Hamas as a proscribed terrorist organisation.

This requires, in the case of Washington, that US agencies try to block the finances and fundraising activities of the organisation and isolate its leaders.

'Contacts'

Europe "recognise[s] Hamas' authority and that there can be no understanding or stability in Palestine without talks with Hamas," Mr Meshal said in an interview recorded in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

The problem with the elections is that they are based on old ideas. Even with a Hamas president that would not change
Khaled Meshal

He continued: "The American authorities, who have also put us on a list of terrorist organisations and criticise us, have also contacted us in recent months."

A spokeswoman for the EU said she was unaware of any contact between the union and Hamas.

There was no immediate comment from the US state department on Mr Meshal's claims.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was reported last month to have said that he had had direct talks with Hamas. Hours later he denied this.

Mr Solana's office later released a statement saying that what he had said about contacts with Hamas referred to "soundings and impressions conveyed to him".

Palestinian elections

Mr Meshal went on to explain why Hamas was boycotting the Palestinian presidential election on 9 January.

"The problem with the elections is that they are based on old ideas. Even with a Hamas president that would not change. So this is not a serious move forward," Mr Meshal said.

He complained that the Fatah faction of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was using "dictatorial methods" to manipulate the elections in its favour.

"This is not real democracy... That is why we have boycotted the elections despite our belief in democracy, and our insistence that there should be free and democratic general elections," Mr Meshal told Newsnight.




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