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Mash'al: Despite turmoil, Iran still backs Hamas

Aug. 16, 2009 8:48 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 17, 2009 11:17 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mash'al said Iran will likely support the Palestinian movement despite recent turmoil in its disputed presidential election.

Mash'al's comments appeared in an interview published in the Qatari daily newspaper Al-Watan on Sunday.

The 12 June elections led to violent riots and demonstrations, including what human rights groups called an overwhelmingly disproportionate use of force on the part of government authorities there.

The turmoil also led some analysts to speculate that Iran's allies in southern Lebanon and parts of Palestine would lose support from the regime whose credibility was severely damaged abroad.

"No doubt what is happening in Iran concerns and worries us, but we consider it to be an internal affair," Mash'al told the newspaper. "But we are definitely not worried about the relationship with Iran or the support that Iran offers us."

The exiled leader, who resides in the Syrian capital of Damascus, added it was Hamas' view that foreign powers were ultimately responsibly for the unrest inside Iran, a claim Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has voiced over the past few weeks.

In the interview, Mash'al was also pressed on allegations from Palestinian human rights organizations that the Islamic movement was instituting so-called modesty rules against the will of residents in Gaza.

Playing down a recent decision by Gaza's chief judge to require that female lawyers cover their hair while in court, Mash'al noted that the order came from the judiciary, not the de facto government.

"We will not impose a strict interpretation of religion on anyone," he said, adding that Hamas was "still dealing with the matter."
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