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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 00:09 GMT 01:09 UK
Hamas sets out stance to UN chief
By Susannah Price
BBC United Nations correspondent

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar
Mr Zahar said his cabinet was ready for constructive dialogue
The new Hamas-led Palestinian government has told the UN it wants to live in "freedom and independence side by side with our neighbours".

The message came in the first official letter from new Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Hamas has consistently refused to recognise Israel's right to exist.

Mr Zahar said Israel's policies would diminish hopes for the achievement of peace based on a two-state solution.

The road map for peace, drawn up by the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, collectively known as the Quartet, refers to a two-state solution meaning an Israeli and a Palestinian state existing side by side in peace.

First contact

The letter from the new Palestinian foreign minister to the UN secretary general was the first contact between the two since the new Hamas cabinet was sworn in.

The minister, Mr Zahar, wrote that he hoped to work with the international community to enable Palestinians to attain what he termed "their rights to a fully independent state".

He also referred to what he called "Israel's illegal colonial policies" of seizing land and warned that such actions would diminish hopes for the achievement of a settlement based on a two state solution.

The so-called "two-state solution" is the ultimate goal of a peace plan drawn up by international mediators in the Quartet, which would lead to the existence of an Israeli and a Palestinian state.

However Hamas, which won elections in January, has refused to recognise Israel's right to exist despite calls by international mediators, including the UN, for it to do so.

The Quartet has called on the new Palestinian government to reverse this position, accept previous agreements and commit to the principles of non-violence.

Mr Zahar said his cabinet was ready for serious and constructive dialogue and that they wanted to live in peace and security with their neighbours.

A UN spokesman said the letter would be studied carefully.

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