U.N. Chief Declines Meeting With Hamas on Mideast Visit

The visiting U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said Sunday that the time is not ripe for meetings with Hamas officials in the new Palestinian government.

Hamas, branded a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union, joined the more moderate Fatah party in a coalition government last week. Palestinian officials have expressed hope that the alliance would lead to an end of international sanctions imposed against the previous Hamas government.

Ban welcomed the formation of the new government, but said "the atmosphere is not ripe" for talks with Hamas. "At this time, I do not have plans to meet with Prime Minister Haniyeh or other Hamas Cabinet ministers," he said after a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

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Ban urged the Palestinian government to meet international demands to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept past peace agreements.

The new government's platform agrees to "respect" past peace deals, but does not explicitly recognize Israel. Abbas has said the deal is the best he can get from Hamas, an Islamic militant group committed to Israel's destruction.

"We expect that the national unity government will perform and meet the expectations of the international community," Ban said. "I encourage this new government and I hope that its actions will show a basic commitment ... to peace."

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