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Haniyeh: No differences among Hamas leaders

June 10, 2011 6:15 P.M. (Updated: June 11, 2011 9:16 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza government Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that there were no internal differences among Hamas leaders.

Speaking at Friday prayers in Gaza City, the premier denied media reports of internal disagreements within the Islamist movement.

"This is not true. Hamas has the heart of a one man," he told worshipers.

Haniyeh said Hamas would not negotiate with Israel or concede Palestinians' rights.

In May, Damascus-based Hamas chief Khalid Mash’al said the party was willing to allow the PLO to negotiate with Israel for a period of time in order to prove that talks would lead nowhere.

The remarks, delivered during a speech in Cairo, led to a public spat among party leaders, highlighting long-standing tensions between the party's officials in Gaza and Damascus.

Senior Hamas official in Gaza Mahmoud Zahhar said Mash'al's remarks did not represent Hamas' position, which "is based on resistance as its political program - not negotiations."

"There has been no change on the movement's position in regard to resistance, which is the sole option," Zahhar told the Al-Quds newspaper on May 18.

Meanwhile, Izzat Ar-Rishiq, a high-ranking politburo member in Damascus, told AFP that Zahhar did not have the authority to comment on Mash'al's remarks, adding that only the Damascus-based political office could clarify the leader-in-exile's statements.

Zahhar responded that Ar-Rishiq did not represent the Hamas position inside Gaza.

Both parties downplayed the rift.

Zahhar told London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat on June 2 that "there are disputes inside the [Hamas] movement like disputes inside a family. However, they have never reached the level of conflicts or splits."

Ar-Rishiq has also insisted that there is no conflict in the movement.

On June 2, after a two-day meeting in Damascus, Hamas officials affirmed in a statement that Mash'al's remarks indeed represented the party's position on the sensitive issue of negotiations with Israel.

"Mash'al's speech was in line with the movement's positions, policies and principles," the statement said. "Any remarks contradicting these issues do not represent the movement and its branches."

The politburo is solely tasked with making the party's policy, the statement added.
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