World News

Exiled Hamas leader meets British MPs

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (R) meets British Member of Parliament Roger Godsiff in Damascus, April 14,2009. REUTERS/Hamas office/Handout

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - A parliamentary delegation on a visit to Syria has met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal as part of European efforts to communicate with the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas said on Wednesday.

Meshaal lives in exile in Syria and the meeting took place in the Syrian capital on Tuesday.

The British Embassy confirmed the meeting but denied a Syrian media report that Ambassador Simon Collis attended.

Richard Spring, a member of parliament from the opposition Conservative party who heads the nine-member delegation, was not among those who met Meshaal, the embassy said.

The British government boycotts Hamas, in line with a European Union position not to have official contacts with the group unless it renounces armed struggle, recognises Israel’s right to exist and past agreements between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

In March, four members of parliament urged the government to end its boycott of the Palestinian group after meeting Meshaal.

Calls have mounted in Britain and major European powers to deal with Hamas after the Israeli invasion of Gaza, which killed hundreds of civilians before it was halted in January.

Editing by Robert Woodward