Egypt to tell Hamas it must recognize Israel, disarm

Egypt will send Hamas a strong message that the militant group must recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals, two top Egyptian officials said Wednesday in the latest sign of how Arab governments are pushing the militant group to moderate after its election victory. Separately, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had told Egyptian offficials that he would hold off on asking Hamas to form the next Palestinian government until Hamas renounces violence.

The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, cited Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as saying that Abbas had made that decision and told the Egyptians in a meeting in Cairo. The Israeli official said Suleiman made the statement after a meeting with Abbas and Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.

Suleiman could not immediately be reached to verifty that. But earlier, Suleiman told journalists in Cairo that Egypt intends to tell Hamas leaders that they must recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals. Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in a landslide last week.

Hamas is under growing pressure to renounce its violent ideology and recognize Israel's right to exist as a condition for having contact with Israel and the rest of the world, and for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid, the lifeline of the Palestinian economy. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group was still trying to determine whether Abbas had indeed posed such conditions. Abu Zuhri noted that "President Abbas said on different occasions that he respects the result of these elections, and all the developments that followed the elections."

And in Damascus, a senior Hamas official there said the group would not change its principles and Washington must deal with it, as it is. U.S. President George W. Bush has also called on the Palestinian militant group to disarm and accept Israel.

"These conditions could not be accepted and the U.S. president should accept reality and facts ... He should deal with Hamas as it is," Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, said from Damascus, reports the AP. I.L.

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