Hamas warns Abbas against concessions to Israel
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Hamas warned the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday against making concessions to Israel at a proposed peace conference sponsored by the United States.
Addressing Arab intellectuals in the Syrian capital, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said the Islamist group's rivals were risking their political future by preparing for statehood talks.
"No Palestinian is authorized to offer concessions. With Palestinian divisions and the absence of institutions no one has the right to conduct negotiations as they please," Meshaal said.
"I tell my brothers in Ramallah. Your game is dangerous. Don't gamble with your political future. The Palestinian people won't accept negotiating on the core of the Palestinian cause as part of a game destined to fail," he said.
Meshaal was referring to a U.S.-sponsored peace conference expected before the end of the year. Israel and Abbas have said it would serve as the basis for talks to create a Palestinian state on land Israel occupied in 1967.
Visiting Ramallah on Monday to prepare for the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she hoped a deal would be reached before the term of President George W. Bush expires in January 2009.
But Rice gave no details on how it might be possible to resolve core issues such as borders for a state, Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.
Doubt also hangs over the chances for any agreement given that Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since taking it over from the forces of the secular Abbas in June.
Meshaal said Hamas was not against efforts to fulfill Palestinian rights but the conference was aimed at forcing a "sell-out" from the Palestinians and a normalization of ties with Arab states.
"The United States and Israel play the same game at the end of every U.S. president's term then they say oh, wait till the next president. The objective is to deepen Palestinian divisions, target the resistance, annex more occupied land and Judaise more of Jerusalem," Meshaal said.
Hamas had agreed with Abbas before taking over Gaza that it would not oppose him handling talks with Israel if the goal was the return of all land occupied in 1967 and ensuring the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel.
Abbas met Hamas officials in Ramallah last week for the first time since Hamas seized Gaza, but ruled out formal talks until the group gives up the territory.
Meshaal and other Hamas politburo members live in exile in Syria, which has not decided whether or not to attend the Annapolis conference.
(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)
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