Germany says members of new Palestinian government must decline outrage

Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as well as Israeli leaders next week, the government said Thursday, as her foreign minister cautioned that election victor Hamas was "a long way" from being fit for government. Merkel's planned trip was thrown into doubt after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fell ill, and Hamas' sweeping victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections over Abbas' ruling Fatah Party has cast Middle Easteast politics into further turmoil.

However, a Germany government spokesman said Merkel would travel on Sunday to Israel, where she will meet officials including acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Merkel will meet Abbas on Monday in Ramallah in the West Bank, the spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. Abbas remains in charge of negotiations with Israel, the spokesman noted.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cautioned on Thursday that any members of a new Palestinian government would have to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.

Steinmeier told Bayerischer Rundfunk radio that he would consult his European colleagues to seek a joint reaction to the official election results, but said there were "at least two conditions" for would-be participants in a government.

"Those powers that participate in the government must renounce violence" and recognize Israel's right to exist, Steinmeier said. "That seems to be a long way away for Hamas." Germany's main Jewish leader said the Hamas victory "fills me with concern and disappointment."

"Hamas is a terrorist organization and it is hard to imagine that terrorists, even if they are democratically elected, can be reliable partners for a peace process," Paul Spiegel, the head of the Central Council of Jews, said in a statement, reports the AP.


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