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Abbas, Haniyeh congratulate Mursi

June 24, 2012 8:08 P.M. (Updated: June 27, 2012 10:15 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated Muhammad Mursi on his victory in Egypt's presidential elections on Sunday.

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mursi was declared Egypt's first democratic president by the state election committee, which said he had defeated former general Ahmed Shafiq with 51.7 percent of last weekend's run-off vote.

Haniyeh phoned Mursi to congratulate him, and supporters marched to the prime minister's home in Gaza City to celebrate the victory.

"We will look to Egypt to play a big, leading role, a historic role, regarding the Palestinian cause, in helping the Palestinian nation get freedom, return home, and totally end the Gaza siege," Haniyeh told Reuters Television.

In Gazan streets, the jubilation recalled that which greeted Hamas' shock victory in Palestine's 2006 elections, as thanksgiving sermons and calls of "Allahu Akbar" echoed from mosques across the enclave and sweets were handed out in the street.

One man was killed and five injured in celebratory gunfire, a spokesman for Gaza's Health Ministry said.

Palestine's ambassador to Cairo Barakat al-Farra and President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas also phoned Mursi to congratulate him on his presidency.

Abbas, who has pursued stop-start peace negotiations with Israel, had warm words for the Muslim Brotherhood, calling Mursi "the choice of the great people of Egypt".

Fatah leader Amin Maqboul told Ma'an he hoped Egypt would regain its status as a regional leader and that the Egyptian people would "unite against challenges, especially Israel's continuous aggression against our people."

Mursi has said he will respect Egypt's 1979 treaty with Israel, on which much US aid depends. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected continued cooperation with Egypt on the basis of the bilateral peace accord.

Hamas, Fatah's longtime rival, has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and the groups share ideological roots, but Maqboul said he hoped Egypt would support Palestinian rights "and treat all sides equally."

Maqboul, secretary-general of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, said Fatah had never linked reconciliation with Hamas "on foreign agendas or with the internal Egyptian situations."

"We will continue our efforts to end the split … We will wait and see what the days will bring. Right now we cannot talk about Egypt’s role but we wish Egyptians and Egypt to live in prosperity," Maqboul said.

Saeb Erekat, a senior Abbas aide and negotiator, said the democratic vote for Mursi "meant the Palestinian cause was the number one priority for all Egyptians".

But Erekat said Palestinians had to heal the five-year-old and sometimes bloody schism between Hamas and Fatah.

"Regardless of who the Egyptian president is, Palestinian reconciliation is a Palestinian matter, and if we do not help ourselves, no one will," Erekat said.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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