A top Hamas official said the militant group will not recognize Israel but will abide, for now, by past agreements Palestinian leaders made with the Jewish state. He also lashed out at the more moderate Fatah party for refusing to participate in a national unity Palestinian government.
The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, the right-hand man to Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal, came as Hamas leaders from Syria and Palestinian areas gathered here and began talks Monday with Egyptian officials after the group's stunning election victory.
In a statement, Abu Marzouk blamed the Fatah movement for refusing to participate in a national unity government, which Hamas wants to form to avoid an Israeli veto on it.
"We will act in the legal framework to get out from this deadlock, which our brothers in Fatah have put us in," Abu Marzouk told reporters late Sunday.
Abu Marzouk said any government set up by Hamas "will not make security arrangements with Israeli or hand over (Palestinians) who fire rockets (on Israel)." He also insisted the group would not recognize Israel.
Hamas is under growing international pressure to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist as a condition for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid — the lifeline of the Palestinian economy. Western powers have said they will not fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government otherwise.
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman said last week that Egypt intends to tell Hamas leaders that they must recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals.
The leaders are expected to meet later with senior Egyptian officials, including Suleiman and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Omar Suleiman.
An Egyptian official said Monday that Egyptian officials will repeat to Hamas leaders that they should comply with all obligations undertaken by the Palestinian Authority.
"They will also be advised that they should keep all the achievements the Palestinian people have made regarding peace and security,"said the Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Mashaal arrived from Damascus leading a delegation from the movement's outside while another delegation from Gaza led by Mahmoud al Zahar arrived from the Palestinian territories.
Before the leaders started their meetings at a Cairo hotel, Abu Marzouk acknowledged that the movement faces difficulties in its attempts to set up a government.
"The most daunting task we face is to recognize the Zionist enemy and the obligations which the Authority had in the absence of similar (Israeli) obligations," he said.
Marzouk said Hamas officials had met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader, and that Abbas did not insist that Hamas had to recognize Israel or make other concessions before Fatah would negotiate a deal to form the next Palestinian government.
Speaking of past peace deals between the Palestinians and Israel, Marzouk told reporters: "There is no authority that inherits another authority without abiding by the agreements already made. But the other party also should be committed to the agreements."
He said Hamas would review all past deals.
"If the agreements contradict logic and rights, there are legal measures to be taken ... there are no eternal agreements," he said.
Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said Monday he will work with Abbas as long as he does not join forces with Hamas. Olmert also said Israel would continue transferring monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas was not in control.
Israel agreed Sunday to transfer $54 million (euro45 million) in desperately needed tax money to the Palestinian Authority. Israel's monthly transfer of the taxes and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinians is crucial to the functioning of the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli Cabinet decided to transfer the money because Hamas was not yet in the government, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said.