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Hamas expecting no conditions on talks in Moscow
Updated: 2006-02-12 15:58

Hamas leaders said they don't expect Russia to impose conditions for their trip to Moscow this month for talks, while Israel's foreign minister cautioned the international community on Sunday against going down the "slippery slope" of legitimizing the violent Islamic group.

Russian President Vladimir Putin extended the invitation to Hamas last week, following its sweeping victory in Palestinian elections last month. The invitation, later supported by France, infuriated Israel, which fears the international resolve to shun the militant group is weakening.

Hamas expecting no conditions on talks in Moscow
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (C) waves as he arrives from Egypt to Gaza Strip February 9, 2006. [Reuters]

The militant group, which remains committed to Israel's destruction and has been branded a terrorist organization in the US and Europe, is to form a new Palestinian government in the coming weeks.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said Russia and Hamas would engage in a dialogue during the militant group's visit.

"We are going to present our positions ... about the political developments and issues related to the rights of our people," Abu Zuhri said on Saturday. "Russia will listen to Hamas and Hamas will listen to Russia."

Although an official date for the visit hasn't been set, Abu Zuhri said he expects it to take place in the second half of February.

Putin's position runs counter to the stand recently taken by the so-called Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators, comprising Russia, the US, the European Union and the U.N. The Quartet, which backs the "road map" peace plan, has called on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel, and has threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in desperately aided need to the Palestinian Authority once Hamas takes power.

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