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Hamas leader says Obama can visit Gaza

March 7, 2013 9:14 A.M. (Updated: March 11, 2013 5:34 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas would not oppose a visit by US President Barack Obama to the Gaza Strip, a party leader said Wednesday.

"Hamas refuses to negotiate with Israel, but wouldn’t oppose Obama visiting Gaza with the hope that the US attitude to reality will change," said Aziz Dweik, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Obama is expected to visit Israel and the West Bank in March. According to Dweik, the purpose of Obama's trip is to strengthen Washington's friendship with Israel.

"We are used to America viewing our cause from one angle," the Hamas leader told Ma'an TV.

Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardawil said Wednesday that the intransigence of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would prevent Obama bringing any new initiatives on his visit.

Obama's trip is "a political maneuver to buy time and to calm the situation," al-Bardawil told Ma'an.

"We hope Obama is serious and will exert pressure on Israel to ease the Palestinian people's suffering, thus he will make amends for his previous term during which he was unjust to the Palestinian people," he added.

Al-Bardawil urged Obama not to visit Jerusalem. "This will be disastrous as such a visit will legitimize the Judaization of Jerusalem," he said. "We advise Obama to stay away from Jerusalem and to address it as the capital of Palestine."

The Hamas spokesman warned the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority against wasting time, which he said served Israel's plans to create facts on the ground. Obama's visit negatively affects reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah "which the PA has shelved," he added.

Dweik, the PLC speaker, said national reconciliation would only be achieved if Palestinians avoid interference from the US and Israel.

He said Hamas still rejected negotiations with Israel which brought "zero results."

Discussing the emergence of Islamist regimes in the Arab Spring, and their relations with Washington, Dweik said: "Everybody wants to explain about their cause and defend it.

"Hamas is seeking to explain about our cause just as Egypt and other Arab countries, but we will do that without recognizing Israel."

Asked about a decision by the Al-Aqsa University to force female students to cover their heads, Dweik said he opposed the move, adding that Christian students attend the campus and must be considered.

"It was an individual decision the university made on its own," he said.

He also reaffirmed previous statements that he did not approve of banning liquor stores or cinemas.

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