Hamas official brushes off US peace conference

A senior Hamas official brushed off a planned US-sponsored Mideast peace conference as a publicity stunt, warning Wednesday that the attempt to push Hamas out of the picture and make a peace between its rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel will fail. The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Jerusalem, working on organizing the conference, expected to be held in September. The US, Israel and Arab countries are pushing to make quick progress in the peace process, trying to exploit the isolation of Hamas after the militant group's military take-over of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. The seizure split the Palestinian territories, with Hamas running Gaza and Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah faction, forming a government in the West Bank. While the division undermines Abbas' claims to represent all Palestinians, he and Arab officials appear to be hoping it will also free his hands to make progress in peacemaking.