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Hamas expects resumption of military training in Russia


MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) expects the training of Palestinian military staff in Russia to resume, a Hamas leader said Thursday.

In an interview with Russia's Mayak radio station, prime minister designate Ismail Haniya said the political and economic situation in the PNA would be among issues discussed during Hamas leaders' visit to Moscow, scheduled for March 3.

"[We] hope that the program to train our military staff in Russia will resume," he said.

Haniya said Islamic group Hamas, which won the January 25 parliamentary election, expected Russia to play a significant role in resolving the Middle East conflict, and help the Palestinians assert their rights.

"We are delighted with the invitation to Moscow, and we see Russia as a leading country in the United Nations and the Middle East settlement process," Haniya said, stressing that the PNA wanted Russia to enhance its influence in the region.

Commenting on relations with Israel after Hamas' election victory, the official said the PNA would officially acknowledge Israel's right to exist only after Tel Aviv met a number of demands.

"We want Israel first to acknowledge our rights, allow our refugees to return, release imprisoned Palestinians, and acknowledge Palestine as a sovereign state with its capital in eastern Jerusalem," he said.

When asked whether the new Palestinian leadership was ready to comply with agreements previously reached with Israel and stop armed resistance, Haniya said it was Israel that ignored those agreements and seemed to have a selective memory for them.

"What is happening in Nablus and Balata [refugee camp] and the killings of Gaza Strip resistance leaders is evidence that Israel does not recognize these peace agreements. We do not long for blood, we want peace and quiet in the region on the only condition that the Palestinian people must have a right to live in their own state with the capital in Jerusalem. What is the point of waging war if the occupant withdraws?" Haniya said.

Hamas has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Israel, and refuses to recognize the world's only Jewish state.

Haniya said that he was unlikely to join the delegation's visit to Moscow, but pledged that Russia would be the first country he would visit as prime minister.

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