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Mashaal meets Jordan king

Jan. 29, 2012 3:04 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 31, 2012 10:35 A.M.)
AMMAN, Jordan (Ma'an) -- Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mashaal lauded the links between Jordan and Palestine after meeting with King Abdullah II at the Raghadan Palace in Amman on Sunday.

Thanking the king for his charitable support to Palestinians and guardianship of the holy sites in Jerusalem, Mashaal told reporters after the meeting: "We hope to establish a strong relationship which will benefit both the Jordanian and the Palestinian nations."

"We want to say that we care about the safety and security of Jordan and we respect this relationship," he added.

Mashaal arrived in the Jordanian capital earlier Sunday along with the Qatari heir to the throne Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani. They were received at Marka airport by Jordan’s crown prince Hussein Ben Abdullah, along with prince Ali Ben Hussein.

According to the Hamas-affiliated website Palestinian Information Center, Mashaal met first with king Abdullah and Sheikh Tamim before they were joined by Hamas’ delegation.

The delegation included Mousa Abu Marzouq, Sami Khatir, Izzat al-Rishiq, Muhammad Nazzal and Muhammad Nasr.

'No link' to Syria unrest

The visit was planned before an uprising erupted in Syria, where Hamas has had its main headquarters outside the Gaza Strip. Jordan has indicated it will accommodate families of the Syrian based leadership, many of whom are Jordanian citizens, but would not tolerate political activities on its soil.

Both Hamas and Jordan have denied that the Islamist movement may move its headquarters from Damascus, where many of its leadership relocated from Jordan after being expelled from the kingdom in 1999.

"The talk about the visit preceded the events in Syria and is not linked," al-Rishiq said.

Hamas and Jordanian officials said neither side discussed reopening the Hamas office in Jordan.

Diplomatic and intelligence sources said Friday Mashaal has effectively abandoned his headquarters in Damascus, as Syrian forces continued a 10-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

"He's not going back to Syria," a regional intelligence source said of Mashaal.

Analysts say Mashaal was embarrassed by Assad's crackdown, in which more than 5,000 people have been killed, many of them Sunni Muslim sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Internal tussles

Meshaal, a Jordanian citizen, was deported to Qatar after a crackdown by security forces on the movement in 1999 amid charges it harmed Jordanian national interests.

The crackdown embittered many Jordanians of Palestinian origin, a majority of the population, who saw it as a dangerous precedent in a country where many native Jordanians oppose a larger political role for Palestinians.

Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh's steps to co-opt Islamists to the cabinet have drawn the ire of the powerful security and native Jordanian political establishment that regards any comeback by Hamas as a boost to Islamists.

Jordanian Islamists, who make up the main political opposition, have been in the forefront of street protests demanding sweeping political reforms.

"There are forces that are not pleased with this visit and see themselves losing as a result," said Zaki Bani Irsheid, a leader of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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