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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 11:08 GMT
Hamas urges EU not to end funding
Ismail Haniya in Gaza
Ismail Haniya said his concerns were for impoverished Palestinians
A senior Hamas leader has appealed to the European Union not to halt funding to the Palestinian Authority following the militant group's election victory.

Ismail Haniya spoke as EU foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels to discuss halting aid.

Mr Haniya called for unconditional talks between Hamas and international donors, saying no aid money would be used to fund attacks on Israel.

EU member states donated about $600m (341m) to the Palestinians in 2005.

"We call on you to continue moral and financial support, and to direct all aid to the Palestinian treasury so it can be used in keeping with the priorities of the Palestinian people," Mr Haniya said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said it would be "unthinkable" for the EU to keep funding the PA, unless Hamas renounced violence against Israel.

Diplomatic talks

The US, EU, UN and Russia, co-sponsors of the stalled roadmap peace plan, are meeting in London on Monday evening.

That meeting of the so-called "Quartet" will be looking at the prospects for peace in the Middle East in the light of Hamas' surprise victory.

Hamas supporter celebrates
Hamas is under great pressure to renounce violence
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in London for the meeting, has said the US will fulfil its current aid commitments to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, but will not give money to a Hamas government.

The US gave a total of $400m (226m) to the Palestinians during 2004-05.

"The United States is not prepared to fund an organisation that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations under the roadmap to which everyone is committed," she said.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says that in public there is already some agreement between Europe and the US on the message to send to Hamas leaders.

But behind the rhetoric they also have to decide what they do if Hamas fails to comply, so that outside pressure does not end up making an already volatile situation worse, she adds.

Hamas, which has carried out scores of suicide bombings and refuses to recognise the state of Israel, is classified as a terrorist group by the US and EU.

Israel has said it might withhold tax revenues from the PA because of fears they could help Hamas fund attacks.

About $35m (20m) in taxes due to be handed over to the PA on Wednesday are not likely to be delivered on time, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said.

"It must be made very clear, we are not going to transfer funds which could finance terrorist attacks against our civilians," Mr Olmert said at a news conference with Mrs Merkel on Sunday.

Hamas 'truce offer'

Hamas could agree to a long-term "hudna", or truce, if Israel accepts a Palestinian state based on the internationally-recognised borders of 1967, one of the group's senior leaders has said.

Mahmoud Zahhar

Speaking to CNN, Mahmoud Zahhar also called for the release of Palestinian prisoners, an end to Israeli "aggression" against Palestinians, and a geographic link between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"At that time, with assurance from other sides, we are going to accept to establish our independent state at that time, and give us one or two, 10, 15 years time in order to see what is the real intention of Israel after that," Mr Zahhar said.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and has since settled about 400,000 Jews in the territories.

The Hamas charter seeks the destruction of Israel, but there was no mention of this aim in the organisation's election manifesto.

Leaders of Hamas have consistently refused to recognise Israel or negotiate with the Jewish state.

However, Hamas militants have observed an unofficial hudna since early in 2005 as the group switched focus to the political arena.

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