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(photo credit: AP [file])
A top Hamas official on Tuesday said the group will not be "blackmailed" by international threats to cut off aid to the Palestinians and said Hamas already is searching for new sources of funding.
Osama Hamdan, a member of the group's exiled leadership, spoke a day after international donors that support the Palestinian government said millions of dollars of aid could be in jeopardy if Hamas does not change its violent ways. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide attacks, is poised to lead the next Palestinian government after winning legislative elections.
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"We are looking for alternative sources and we will not allow ourselves to be blackmailed," Hamdan said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Beirut, Lebanon. "We will not accept any conditions from anybody. At the same time, we are ready for dialogue."
In related news, Jordan's King Abdullah II urged Hamas on Tuesday to engage in peacemaking with Israel and renounce violence.
Speaking to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Abdullah said Hamas' landslide election victory last week was "the choice of the Palestinian people and we respect their will," according to a statement from the king's press office.
The king stressed it was important that "all sides in the Palestinian territories understand the requirements of this period, deal with it logically, and prove to the whole world that there is a Palestinian partner able to go forward to achieve peace."
Abbas is expected to hold talks in Cairo later this week with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal about the formation of a new PA cabinet.
Abbas said Monday he would meet with Hamas leaders within two weeks to ask them to form a new cabinet.
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Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has been dispatched to Damascus to meet with Mashaal and other Hamas leaders. At the request of Abbas, Egypt has agreed to act as a mediator between the PA and Hamas following the results of the parliamentary vote.
Mashaal will travel to Cairo together with Suleiman, where the two are scheduled to hold talks with Abbas about the make-up of the new cabinet.
Israel is not using Egypt to pass messages to and from Hamas, Israeli diplomatic officials said Monday, following reports that Mashaal would be in Cairo Tuesday, a day before the scheduled visit of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Suleiman is scheduled to meet Livni the next day. In addition, Livni is scheduled to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit during her first trip abroad as foreign minister.
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said that - as in the past - the Egyptians would not be a conduit for messages between Israel and Hamas, but could be expected to tell Livni of what transpired in the various talks on Tuesday. The officials were emphatic that Israel was not holding any contacts with Hamas, and would not do so; either directly or through a third party.
According to these officials, Israel's message to both Egypt and Jordan regarding Hamas's victory was similar to the one Jerusalem has been conveying to the rest of the world: to pressure Hamas to disarm, disavow terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist, or else the PA will face international isolation and an end to massive international aid.