Italy's Berlusconi calls Hamas victory very bad

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday the victory of the Islamic militant group Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections was a "very, very, very bad result," news reports said. Italy's foreign minister said the result risks making the creation of a Palestinian state more difficult.

"If this news was confirmed, everything we had hoped for, that chance for peace between Israel and Palestine, is postponed to who knows when," Berlusconi said, according to the ANSA and Apcom news agencies. The comments were made during a TV show on a station Berlusconi owns.

"It is a very, very, very bad result," the Italian premier said, according to the reports. Hamas has committed dozens of suicide bombings against Israel. At Wednesday's election, the militant group captured a large majority of seats. It was the first time Hamas was contesting a parliamentary vote.

Berlusconi has positioned his conservative government as one of Israel's strongest allies in Europe. Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said in a statement that the "electoral result opens disturbing scenarios and risks making the creation of a Palestinian state more distant."

"For as long as Hamas will pursue, including through terrorism, the stated goal of destroying the state of Israel, the latter cannot be asked to negotiate peace," the statement said. The center-left opposition, traditionally close to the Palestinian cause, also expressed worry over the result.

Romano Prodi, the center-left candidate for premier at this spring's election in Italy, said the result gives rise to "deep concern" in all those who have hope in the peace process. He called on Hamas to "seize the historical opportunity of peace and democracy ... give up violence in a definitive and credible way and recognize Israel", reports the AP. N.U.

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