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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israel and Hamas on Monday to talk to each other once the radical Palestinian group forms a new government, saying both sides must change hard-line positions to avoid further violence and chaos.
Mubarak also appealed the international community to continue financial aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian government, declaring the cutting off such support would cause further suffering and increase terrorism in the region.
Mubarak spoke to reporters after meeting with President Heinz Fischer as part of a European tour that took him to Germany on the weekend for discussions that focused on Hamas and concerns over Iran's nuclear program. He was scheduled to meet with Pope Benedict XVI later Monday evening returning home.
At a meeting in Cairo earlier this month, Egypt and the rest of the Arab League countries urged the Hamas leadership to adhere to a 2002 Arab initiative that suggested a trade of peace for land with the Jewish state.
As a second step, said Mubarak, Hamas "would have to renounce violence" against Israel, expressing confidence that the group "will accept all solutions" set down by the international community as conditions for recognition and further support.
The EU on Friday threatened to cut off aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian government "unless it seeks peace by peaceful means." But Mubarak said any such move would mostly hurt average Palestinians who depend on such support to send their children to school and to provide medical care for the family.
"If this aid is cut off, we have to brace ourselves for effects on the whole (Palestinian) people and that terrorism will increase," he said, suggesting such a move would lead to further radicalization among Palestinians.
"There have to be changes by both sides to be able to conduct negotiations after the formation of the next (Palestinian) government," he said, urging both Israel and Hamas to accept the need for direct talks.
Fischer, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency, avoided specifics on further EU strategy regarding Hamas, beyond emphasizing the importance of "negotiated solutions" and that "agreements that already have been made are kept."
He said talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who arrives in Austria Tuesday, would focus on how Europe "can continue supporting him and working together with him."
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