Ma'an News Agency
December 14, 2011 - 1:00am

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar said Tuesday it was unlikely that elections would be held in May as scheduled.

In an interview with Egyptian media, Zahhar said a unity government and security committee needed to be formed to ensure a transparent vote, Cairo-based Al-Ahram reported.

He questioned on what basis elections could be held as neither of these prerequisites had been met, according to the newspaper report citing the Middle East News Agency.

After meeting Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal for reconciliation talks in Cairo last month, Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas said he "hoped" elections would be held in May 2012.

Zahhar blamed Fatah for the anticipated delay.

"We reached an agreement with Fatah in May, and we agreed to hold elections the next day, but (Abbas) requested that we wait until November, then December until we reached the new date which is May 2012."

Asked about his expectations if elections were held, Zahhar said Hamas would win a majority in the West Bank and make "overwhelming" gains in the Gaza Strip, which it currently rules.

Zahhar said no progress had been made in its reconciliation with Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas which leads the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in May to end years of bitter hostility, but the terms of the deal have yet to be implemented. Both parties hailed the latest round of talks in Cairo as "positive" but progress remains to be seen on the ground.

Both sides had agreed to release all prisoners held for their political affiliation in the West Bank and Gaza, but Zahhar said the detainees remained in jails.

Meanwhile, Hamas could not be blamed for breaking Israel's siege in any way it could, Zahhar said.

"We pay salaries, provide jobs and we are not indebted a penny. However, Hamas was boycotted only by those who have interests with Fatah, namely aggressive clans and security services who run death squads and cooperate with Israeli security services."

Asked about reports that a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood would be established in Palestine and that Hamas would merge with the group, Zahhar said the Egyptian movement did not create branches anywhere in the region and did not need one in Palestine.

"The presence of Muslim Brotherhood in countries like Syria and Jordan is only at the level of local organizations following the movement’s ideology."

Muslim Brotherhood followers in Palestine were independent and not affiliated to anyone, he said, adding that the movement had been oppressed under ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak but was now open to the world.

Zahhar noted that the movement did not necessarily control its followers around the world, but rather supported them without interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

According to Article II of Hamas' charter, the Islamist movement was established as a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.

Asked whether reconciling with Fatah in a unity government meant Hamas would deal with the US administration, Zahhar said his party was open to dialogue "with whoever wants to listen and be listened to."

But Hamas will not repeat Fatah's mistakes and will never give up its non-negotiable principles in exchange for relations with the US, he added.

Zahhar noted that Hamas was on Washington's list of terrorist organization and said it was unlikely that the US would seek to engage the party.


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