Hamas official calls on U.S. to lift group from terrorist list, open talks

A senior Hamas official called on the United States Thursday to remove the militant Islamic group from Washington's list of terrorist organizations and to open a dialogue without preconditions.

Moussa Abu Marzook, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, also confirmed reports from Gaza that Ismail Haniyeh, a leader of the group in the Gaza Strip, had been chosen to be prime minister when Hamas forms a government in the near future. Haniyeh, 46, is seen as a leader of the more pragmatic wing of Hamas.

Marzook said the U.S. should deal with Hamas "as it is, and later there could be a dialogue ... but there should be no preconditions."

"Hamas is not the only side that wants peace ... All the Palestinians want peace because they are the only people whose rights have been encroached upon and who have been expelled from their lands," Abu Marzouk said.

Abu Marzouk described as "absolutely unacceptable" Israel's pre-conditions for dialogue with Hamas, saying "Hamas ... was chosen by the Palestinian people ... this is democracy."

Israel has said it will not have any contact with Hamas, which won last month's Palestinian legislative elections by a landslide, until the group renounces violence, recognizes the Jewish state and declares it will respect the existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Hamas has dispatched delegations to Arab and other foreign capitals to win support the group's efforts to form a new government.

Hamas, which has previously carried out a wave of suicide bombings that killed or wounded hundreds of Israeli's, has not claimed involvement in any suicide attacks since February 2005.

The radical organization has hinted at a readiness for a long-term truce or some other accommodation with the Jewish state, short of recognition.

But the U.S. and the European Union have threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas forms a government without first recognizing Israel and renouncing violence.

Abu Marzouk, who has been in Egypt, Sudan and Qatar, said Hamas found "all-out support" in the three countries, which back "the choice of the Palestinian people and the budget of the Palestinian Authority as it was in the past." He did not elaborate, reports AP.

O.Ch.