Egyptian leader condemns Hamas

The Baltimore Sun

JERUSALEM -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak condemned yesterday the recent Hamas takeover of Gaza as a coup that threatens the future of a single Palestinian state.

Speaking before lawmakers in Cairo, Egypt, Mubarak said Egypt supports Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Fatah party, whose Gaza security forces were routed by Hamas nearly two weeks ago. The split has left a battered political landscape in which the Islamist-backed Hamas controls Gaza and the moderate Fatah reigns over the West Bank.

"We have been following closely the repercussions of the coup over Palestinian legitimacy in Gaza and its grave setbacks on the Palestinian people," Mubarak said in his first public comments on the overthrow. "We feel sad for the shedding of the blood of Palestinians by Palestinian hands, in a fighting that has crossed all red lines ... leading up to division of its occupied territories."

Mubarak's comments came two days before he is to serve as host for a summit at the Red Sea resort in Sharm el-Sheik with Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordan's King Abdullah II. Egypt wants to bolster Abbas' role in the Middle East peace process while also attempting to keep Hamas' militant fervor from spreading across the border to rouse Egypt's popular Islamic party, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Olmert is expected to offer financial pledges to Abbas that include the release of $500 million to $600 million in tax revenue Israel froze after Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006. Along with growing Arab and Western pressure, the aid to Fatah would further isolate Hamas and the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian government that was disbanded by Abbas after the Gaza fighting, called for talks between Hamas and Fatah. Abbas' office turned down the request. The atmosphere has been strained by recriminations: Abbas has charged Hamas with attempted assassination, and Haniyeh has portrayed Fatah as a tool of the United States and Israel to destroy Hamas' legitimate political gains.

"The way out of the current situation is launching a Palestinian dialogue," Haniyeh told Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh by phone, according to Hamas.

Jeffrey Fleishman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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