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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 16:52 GMT
Hamas hails its election success
Hamas official Ismail Haniya
Hamas will be the first-ever Islamist movement elected in the Arab world
Transparency and credibility were key factors in Hamas' apparent win in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, a senior official in the party has said.

Ismail Haniya, who headed the Hamas election list, urged all parties to respect the will of the people.

The Gaza political leader is a pragmatist in the movement's ranks and a possible choice for prime minister.

If the win is confirmed, Hamas will be the first-ever Islamist movement in the Arab world to be voted into government.

The feat has taken many sacrifices, according to Mr Haniya.

Hamas is an aware and mature movement... open to the international arena
Hamas official Ismail Haniya

"We have offered many of our leaders as martyrs - Sheikh Yassin and Abdulaziz Rantisi - the Palestinian people respect a movement that has made such big sacrifices," he said.

Mr Haniya said the party would consult Fatah and other groups with a view to forming what he described as a political partnership.

But Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has already announced his resignation and President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, said he would quit if Hamas failed to commit to peace.

Hamas supporter
Hamas' strong showing has caused consternation in Israel and the US

Hamas is currently maintaining a ceasefire, but remains committed to the armed struggle, attacks on Israeli civilians and the destruction of Israel.

"Peace is not the problem. The problem is the Israeli occupation which doesn't want to give Abu Mazen anything," Mr Haniya said.

He also said Israel's withdrawal from parts of occupied territory in the West Bank had not influenced the election's outcome.

Politics transformed

Israel, the US and the EU consider Hamas a terrorist group and have said they do not want to deal with it.

Mr Haniya said the international community had nothing to fear from Hamas, but it had to respect the result of the ballot.

"Hamas is an aware and mature movement; one which is politically open in the Palestinian arena, to its Arab and Islamic hinterland, and similarly open to the international arena.

"All parties must respect the will of the Palestinian people which has been expressed at the polls," he said.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Jerusalem says there is no doubt that the Hamas showing has transformed the Palestinian political arena.




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