Bbc News
October 25, 2007 - 11:32am

An Israeli minister has called on his government to invite "moderate" members from the Palestinian movement Hamas to an upcoming Middle East conference.

Minister without portfolio Ami Ayalon said any invitation would be conditional on Hamas members fully recognising Israel right to exist.

Mr Ayalon said that Israel should be talking to moderates regardless of their political stripes.

The conference is planned for late November in Annapolis in the US.

Mr Ayalon said that potential Hamas attendees would have to agree to abide by any agreement signed between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Hamas' bitter rival Fatah.

"All the definitions of Hamas and Fatah are becoming irrelevant," Mr Ayalon told the BBC.

"There are both Hamas and Fatah factions that are terrorists. We must speak to the moderates. "


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been touring the Middle East during October trying to secure an outline agreement that would allow the conference to go ahead.

The Palestinians have said they will only attend if key issues are up for discussion, including the final status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the right of return for refugees.

The Israelis say no prior text is needed as a basis for the talks.

Mr Ayalon came second in the Israeli Labour Party's leadership contest earlier this year.

In 2003 he co-authored a peace statement called "the People's voice" with Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh.

Previously he had a career in the navy and headed the internal security agency Shin Bet, the first person from outside the organisation to do so.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017