Venezuela ready to receive Hamas "with pleasure"

February 13, 2006 22:05

Venezuela said Monday it will welcome leaders from the Hamas movement "with pleasure" if they visit the country as part of a South American tour following victory in Palestinian elections. Asked if the Venezuelan government will receive the Islamic militant group, Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel told reporters, "Of course we will. What is the problem?" "If they come, with pleasure," Rangel said. "They've just won an election." President Hugo Chavez has said his government will be one of the first to recognize an independent Palestinian state. Rangel said earlier this month that Hamas was expected to visit Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela as part of a regional tour to celebrate its electoral victory. On Monday, he said he didn't know when Hamas would arrive because the visit was not yet confirmed.

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