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Palestinian parliament strengthens Abbas
Updated: 2006-02-14 09:21

Palestinian political analyst Talal Okal said parliament's actions worsened the already tough challenge facing Hamas as it tries to flex its muscle in a Palestinian bureaucracy filled with Fatah loyalists.

"Hamas will be in a difficult position. It will be running a government from its head, but the whole body will be Fatah," he said.

The strengthening of Abbas, a moderate who seeks to resume peace talks with Israel, came as Israel worked to diplomatically isolate Hamas if it does not renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state.

Since Hamas' victory, Western nations have threatened to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed aid unless the group, which is responsible for dozens of suicide bombings, transforms itself.

A Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, again ruled out Hamas recognizing Israel or making any compromises to keep money from international donors coming.

"I wish America would cut off its aid. We do not need this satanic money," Zahar told a conference in Cairo, Egypt.

Israel's acting foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said Monday that the international community must keep pressure on Hamas.

"As long as the international position is clear, decisive and uncompromising, then maybe there will be a chance for changes (in Hamas) in the future," Livni said after meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Jerusalem.

Steinmeier said Germany supports the Israeli position.

"I wanted to let Israel know that it can count on our solidarity, especially after the Palestinian elections," he said.

Steinmeier was to meet Tuesday with Abbas, but had no meetings scheduled with Hamas.

Israel has grown increasingly concerned the international front against Hamas was crumbling after Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Hamas leaders to Moscow for talks. Russia has said it will press the group to change its violent ideology.

Venezuela's vice president on Monday said it would welcome leaders from Hamas "with pleasure" if they visit the country as part of a South American tour.

Jose Vicente Rangel earlier this month said Hamas leaders were expected to visit Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela. He said a visit hadn't yet been confirmed.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez frequently criticizes what he calls U.S. imperialist dominance in world affairs and has often expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

In an interview in Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper published Monday, Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal said the group would not renounce violence until Israel pledges to leave all occupied lands.

A Russian diplomat said Moscow understood Western concerns about Hamas, but warned that cutting off international aid to the Palestinians would be "counterproductive."

"In history there are many examples of radicals coming to power and adopting a more realistic and constructive stance," Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Andrei Denisov, was quoted as saying in the Izvestia daily. "We all hope that Hamas will show sense."

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