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Hamas asks U.S. for dialogue in open letter

RIA Novosti

10/12/2007 16:25 TEL AVIV, December 10 (RIA Novosti) - An Hamas official has urged the U.S. to enter into dialogue with the Palestinian Islamist group, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

In an open letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ahmed Yousef, who serves as senior political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said that his movement did not have any "ideological arguments" with the West.

"We are not anti-American, anti-European or anti-anyone," he explained, adding that the time had come for the U.S. and other Western countries to talk to Hamas.

The Jerusalem Post quoted sources close to Hamas as saying that Haniyeh and other top leaders from the Islamist movement had given their blessing to the content of the open letter.

According to the sources, the letter reflects the hardship which international sanctions are causing Hamas, and its fear of a massive Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.

In his letter, Yousef accused the US of "hypocrisy" for refusing to accept Hamas's victory in the January 2006 parliamentary elections.

Addressing Rice, he wrote: "Meaningful steps toward a resolution cannot take place while the legitimacy of the elected government in Palestine continues to be ignored by your administration. Not only is the policy to isolate Hamas unethical, it is ineffectual as well. Your administration ignores the realities on the ground."

"The Change and Reform Party, the name of the new political party we formed for the Palestinian elections, won an overwhelming majority in the occupied territories. To pretend otherwise is not only futile but detrimental to US interests in the region for many years to come and likely to add to the anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. You cannot preach about exporting democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and ignore the democratic process in Palestine."

In the letter, which was posted on a number of Palestinian websites, Yousef said that even some Westerners had complained about Washington's "narrow-mindedness" in dealing with Hamas.

He said the State Department "should be looking for new solutions instead of reinforcing old stereotypes."

Yousef said that the Palestinians were being punished for holding a free and fair election and voting for Hamas. "It is hard to get across the appalling level of privation that the Palestinian people, and in particular the 1.3 million Palestinians who live in Gaza, currently suffer from," he said.

"If you were even-handed in this conflict, if you engaged with us openly, then the chances of peace would dramatically increase," he said. "As it is, you are setting yourself up for failure and with that failure will come more pain and anguish for the Palestinian people, a further colonization of our lands and a blank space in history for the Bush administration's role in making peace in the Middle East."

The U.S. has yet to respond to the letter.

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