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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
MPs urging engagement with Hamas
Alan Johnston, hand held aloft by ousted Hamas PM Ismail Haniya
Britain has thanked Hamas for its role in freeing Johnston
A group of British parliamentarians is calling for international engagement with the militant Hamas movement, after it helped free Alan Johnston in Gaza.

Twenty MPs from all parties, including Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, signed the Commons motion a day after the BBC correspondent's release.

It says Hamas's "pivotal role" in ending his kidnap shows it should join Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

Hamas is boycotted by western powers because of its anti-Israeli stance.

The motion was tabled by Labour's Richard Burden and was signed by MPs from across the political range.

Unless Hamas agrees to recognise Israel and renounce violence there won't be any forward progress
Eric, UK

It notes the correspondent himself "acknowledged the pivotal role played by Hamas in condemning the kidnapping and securing his release".

The radical Islamist Hamas has been engaged in a bitter power struggle with its secular nationalist rival Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

'Crucial role'

Mr Abbas enjoys support of the international negotiating group known as the Quartet, made up of the UN, US, European Union and Russia.

"The international community's support for Mahmoud Abbas as the legitimate President of Palestine should not preclude contact with Hamas," the motion says.

After Wednesday's release from four months' captivity, Foreign Secretary David Miliband "fully acknowledged the crucial role" played by Hamas and its leader, Ismail Haniya, in securing Mr Johnston's release from captivity by a Gaza clan which opposes Hamas.

But officials have given no specific indications of a softening of stance towards Hamas.

Thursday's Commons motion also pays tribute to Alan Johnston's integrity and courage and the dignity shown by his parents since the 12 March abduction in Gaza City, during which several threats were made against his life.

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