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ARABS-ISRAEL - Oct 22 - Israelis Backtrack On Hamas.

Israel, having failed to convince Pres Bush to come out publicly against the participation of an armed Islamic group, Hamas, in Palestinian legislative elections, begins to backtrack on its own opposition. The justice minister and Sharon's close party ally Tzipi Livni, said on Israel Radio that Israel would not try to hamper the election, scheduled for Jan. 25, if Hamas took part. "It is not in Israel's interest" to try to intervene in the election, she said. "It is in the Palestinian interest that Hamas takes part in elections". Livni acknowledged that the Palestinian Pres, Mahmoud Abbas, wanted Hamas to participate in the hope that he could turn the group, listed as terrorists by the US, to politics and away from violence. She called on the international community "to come out and tell Abbas, as well as the Palestinian people as a whole, that holding elections in which terror organizations participate means failing to meet their obligations under the road map, that this is not democratisation". Under the peace plan known as the road map, Abbas and the Palestinians have committed to disbanding all armed groups that carry out terrorism against Israel, seizing their weapons and dismantling their arms factories. Abbas and his aides say that he will not try to take the weapons away from Hamas, Islamic Jihad or other groups, but instead insist that they keep them out of sight - a position that Israel rejects as a violation of the road map. Sharon and his FM Silvan Shalom, have argued that Abbas must disarm Hamas immediately instead of allowing an armed group to enter politics. Last month, on a visit to New York, Sharon said that "we will make every effort not to help" the Palestinians hold elections if Hamas takes part, adding: I don't think they can have elections without our help". His comments were interpreted as part of a campaign to convince Bush to side with Israel and convince Abbas to confront Hamas before the elections, rather than try to co-opt them. The Israeli effort has apparently failed, with Bush praising Abbas last week in Washington.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7PALE
Date:Oct 29, 2005
Words:350
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