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UK widening contacts with Hamas

London, July 26, IRNA - The British government is expanding its links with Hamas after temporarily suspending its political boycott earlier this year to seek help gaining the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, it was reported Thursday.

The Guardian newspaper quoted Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh saying that Britain had increased contacts since the freeing of Johnston last month.

"I cannot deny that there are now other contacts, other channels of communication with the UK and these involve people of high rank, although I am not personally involved," Haniyeh said in an interview with the daily.

"The main aim of the contacts is to improve our democracy and governance. This is just part of the many contacts that are going on with other governments around the world," he said, adding that the UK wanted to keep the contacts secret.

Officials at the UK Foreign Office and the British consulate in Jerusalem denied that there had been political links with Hamas and insisted that any contacts had been purely "humanitarian and consular."

The officials suggested it was possible that the work of British non-governmental organizations, such as Forward Thinking and Conflicts Forum, which include former government advisers who have established contacts with Hamas was misunderstoord.

After the release of Johnson, a group of British MPs renewed their call to end the boycott of Palestine's elected government following the role played by Hamas.

The British government rejected the call but Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that he "fully acknowledged the crucial role" played by Hamas and Haniyeh in ending Johnston's four month captivity in Gaza.

Both the all-party International Development Committee and Britain's international aid agency Oxfam have also called for the end of the 18-month economic boycott.

In his interview, Haniyeh repeated that Hamas would not change its policy of refusing to recognise the Zionist regime, saying the Palestine Liberation Organisation's recognition of Israel 15 years ago had not led to any improvement in the rights of Palestinians.

"In return for recognition, the PLO got the opposite of what they wanted." "They got the expansion of the settlements, the confiscation of the Jordan valley and the wall. The problem is therefore not one of recognition but something else," he added.

... Payvand News - 7/26/07 ... --

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