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Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

Hamas waiting for Abbas' response to Rafah border proposal

Date: 15 / 03 / 2008  Time:  14:53
Gaza Ma'an

Hamas is waiting for a response from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regarding a resolution to the crisis surrounding the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Hamas leader Ayman Taha said on Saturday.

Hamas' view is that the central dispute is that "some of the parties" want to keep the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), while Hamas wants to scrap the treaty. The AMA gives significant power to Israel to open and close the crossing, and positions European observers at the border.

Hamas says it has presented its vision to Egyptian officials who are mediating in the dispute over the border. Talks about the Gaza Strip's borders began after Palestinians breached the border wall into Egypt in January following months of economically suffocating Israeli sanctions.

Taha said that Hamas is showing flexibility by accepting the presence of Palestinian Presidential Guards, loyal to Abbas, at the border. Taha said Hamas and Abbas' Fatah party should agree on the names of the guards beforehand because "the names should not be of those with bad reputation."

Taha reiterated that Hamas would also accept the presence of the European monitors, so long as they lived in Egypt or the Gaza Strip, not in Israel. In the past, Israel was able to close the crossing simply by preventing the monitors from reaching Rafah.

"We hope that the coming days will witness progress in this issue. The ball now in the presidency's field," Taha said.

Responding to comments by US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, who said that Hamas leaves Israel with "bad options," Taha said, "The problem is the occupation the occupation should be removed and all the Israeli aggressions should be stopped."

"Hamas and the other factions are defending the Palestinians' rights and land; we are not responsible for what is going on," Taha said, adding that the United States is also at fault for its support of Israeli occupation.

Taha also said, "We [Hamas] show a great deal of flexibility, we have accepted along range truce on the basis of 1967 borders [with] full sovereignty, and we show flexibility in the issue of calm ["Tahdiah"] and we have no other choice except defending our people"

Taha was responding to Walsh's assertion, often repeated by American administration officials, that Hamas seeks to undermine the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian Authority and defy the demands of the international community.

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