- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas will not alter its charter calling for Israel’s destruction despite U.S., European and U.N. demands tying new aid to recognition of the Jewish state’s right to exist, a top spokesman for the radical Islamic movement insisted yesterday.

Hamas, fresh from a dominating win in last week’s Palestinian parliamentary vote, also said moves by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to seize authority over all four security services are illegal and will be tackled once a new government is formed.

“There is no way that Hamas is going to change its position and its charter,” Hamas chief spokesman Sami Abu Zohri told The Washington Times in Gaza last night.

Hamas’ victory ended 11 years of dominance by its rival, Fatah, though Fatah’s leader, Mr. Abbas, has three more years in office as president of the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Abu Zohri criticized Mr. Abbas’ move to secure control over the security forces, but suggested Hamas would show patience on the issue.

“What Abbas did is against the law,” Mr. Abu Zohri said. “All security apparatuses should be reporting to the interior minister.

“But we don’t want to make a big deal about it yet. We will wait till the Cabinet is formed, and we will deal with it.”

The interior minister’s post is almost certain to be filled within the next two weeks, either by a Hamas stalwart or a person loyal to Hamas — though Mr. Abu Zohri, intriguingly, twice mentioned that it was “too early” to say whether the prime minister would be a Hamas member.

Hamas holds 74 seats in the 132-member assembly and is in position to control all Cabinet posts. It has said it prefers a national unity government, but independent candidates and Fatah officials have indicated they are too far from Hamas’ platform to join them in a government.

Mr. Abu Zohri said Hamas wanted access by its members and supporters to government jobs — in the security services and elsewhere — and maintained Fatah had always kept them out during its rule.

“But Hamas is not coming to make a coup,” he said. “We are not going to bring in one big bloc in one fell swoop. We don’t care whether we or Fatah are the majority, as long as things are decided fairly.”

Uniformed Palestinian gunmen from the security services have fired weapons and taken control of parliament buildings three times in the last two days — including yesterday morning — to declare their refusal to be put under the wing of Hamas.

Mr. Abu Zohri expressed anger at the pressure being placed on his organization to renounce its long-declared aims — which include the replacement of Israel by a Palestinian state that will be part of the Arab and Islamic sphere. The movement’s fiercely worded charter also commits it to the violent overthrow of the Jewish state.

“The West should be putting pressure on the occupiers, not on the victim,” he said.

He claimed that withholding aid in anticipation of a Hamas change of official policy — as recommended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others — amounted to blackmail.

c Distributed by World News & Features

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