US delegation meets Hamas PM Haniya in Gaza

The delegation represented the Council for the National Interest, a group of diplomats, analysts, and businessmen who, according to the group's website, seek to counter the over-zealous tactics of Israel's lobby in the US.

US delegation meets Hamas PM Haniya in Gaza
A delegation of retired US diplomats met dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya in the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday as part of a Middle East fact-finding mission.

The delegation represented the Council for the National Interest, a group of diplomats, analysts, and businessmen who, according to the group's website, seek to counter the over-zealous tactics of Israel's lobby in the US.

"It was a very interesting and very frank discussion with the prime minister," Richard Viets, the head of the delegation, told reporters.

"He outlined in detail the view of the Gazan government on a number of issues," added Viets, who served as the number two US diplomat in Israel from 1977 to 1979 and ambassador to Jordan in the early 1980s.

Viets said the group had not sought permission for the visit from the US government.

"We came here because we are very interested in educating ourselves better about the situation here in order to return home and to explain to our countrymen the reaction and the views of what we heard," Viets said.

"No doubt this will include representatives of the government," he added.

The group was planning to continue its fact-finding mission in Israel, the occupied West Bank, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Former US president Jimmy Carter made a similar tour of the region and met senior Hamas leaders.

An official in the Islamist movement, which blames the US and Israel for imposing a crippling economic blockade on the impoverished coastal strip, welcomed the delegation.

"This visit is important in the context of the siege against the Palestinian people imposed by the United States," Bassim Naim said.

"Haniya reaffirmed the relationship between the Palestinian people and the American people and the fact that the Palestinian people make a difference between those who love peace and the aggression against our people done by the US government."

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Haziran 2008, 08:05
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