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Former British prime minister Tony Blair won't be able to do anything to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict in his new job as the Quartet's special envoy, Hamas said over the weekend.
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, criticized Blair for excluding Hamas from his upcoming Middle East tour.
"By boycotting Hamas, Blair will lose his credibility as a mediator," Zahar said. "He will even lose his status as a friend of the Zionists. Blair does not hold the key to the solution in the Middle East. Only the parties to the conflict hold the key."
Zahar said Israel was uninterested in peace and would exploit Blair's mission to grab more land and to complete the security barrier.
"The parties need an impartial and honest mediator," he said. "If he goes to see [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas and ignores the other elected party, which won the support of the majority of the Palestinians, he will definitely lose his status as a credible mediator. Even the Zionists, who are well aware of the fact that Hamas enjoys the support of the majority, will no longer relate to him seriously."
Zahar added that Blair's close alliance with the US and President George W. Bush turned him into a pawn in the hands of the Americans.
"Blair was part of the American policy in the Middle East," Zahar said. "He was one of those who actually helped implement US schemes, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blair's attitude toward the Arabs and Muslims has been very negative and I don't believe that he can change his personality."
Meanwhile, Hamas officials scoffed at Abbas's decision to call early elections, saying Hamas would not allow the vote to take place. Over the weekend, Abbas's initiative won the backing of the PLO Central Council, one of three key decision-making bodies of the PLO.
But Hamas representatives and some legal experts said the council did not have the power to make such a decision. "The PLO Central Council is not authorized to call early elections," said Musa Abu Marzuk, a senior Syria-based Hamas leader. "President Abbas is using the PLO institutions in his campaign against Hamas."
Nabil Amr, a senior adviser to Abbas, said the PA chairman was serious about holding early elections. "The situation in the Gaza Strip will change in favor of the Palestinian Authority," he said. "This will happen in a matter of weeks or months. Then we will be able to hold early elections there."
Although he stressed that Fatah did not want to talk to Hamas, Amr did not rule out the possibility that the two sides would one day patch up their differences. "If Hamas reverses the situation in the Gaza Strip, apologizes for what it did and puts those responsible for the bloody coup on trial, then there might be a dialogue between us," he said. "Until then, there is nothing to talk about."