Norway defends Hamas reps. visit

Foreign minister: "If people with a Hamas background come, we will meet them."

Norway FM 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Norway FM 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Norway's foreign minister said Monday that a planned meeting next month between members of his staff and Hamas representatives would go ahead, despite US advice to cancel the talks. The two Hamas representatives on the Palestine Legislative Council, Salah Mohammed el-Bardawil and Mohammed al-Rantisi, were scheduled to visit Norway's capital, Oslo, on May 15 as guests of the Norwegian Palestine Committee.
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"Norway's government has not invited Hamas to Norway, but if people with a Hamas background come here, we will meet with them," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told reporters during a visit to Sweden. Foreign Ministry officials planned to meet with the Hamas members, Gahr Stoere said. He confirmed that the United States had contacted the Norwegian government and advised against the talks. "I don't want to call it pressure. But they have presented their views, and I have noted their views," Gahr Stoere said during a joint news conference with Swedish Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson. Although Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, and bars officials from any dealings with the group, Norway is not an EU member and is therefore free to set its own policy. The two Hamas representatives were also scheduled to visit EU-member Sweden on May 16, but would not be meeting with government representatives, Eliasson said. The Swedish foreign minister said, however, that he thought it was fine for the Hamas members to be received as "individuals" in Norway. "Hamas is branded a terrorist organization, not individuals," said Eliasson, who is also president of the UN's General Assembly. He took over as Sweden's foreign minister, after his predecessor, Laila Freivalds, resigned last month.