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Monday, July 03, 2006

Hamas Displays Diplomatic Willingness

Hamas: Resolve Shalit Crisis Through Diplomacy

Senior Hamas Government official says 'we reiterate necessity to resolve Gilad Shalit problem with logic, wisdom'; Adds: We think there remains chance to reach acceptable formula.

A senior Hamas government official said Monday that “the crisis with Israel over the kidnapping of a soldier (Gilad Shalit) should be resolved through diplomacy,” signaling the group may be softening its line after issuing a harsh ultimatum to Israel that expires in less than 10 hours."Since the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier we have called for the need to protect his life and solve the problem through calm diplomatic channels," said Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas government spokesman.

'Resistance factions serious'

"We reiterate the necessity to resolve this problem with logic and wisdom and we think there remains a chance to reach an acceptable formula." Earlier Monday, Hamas implied it would kill Shalit if Israel does not begin releasing about 1,500 Palestinian prisoners early Tuesday.

Earlier on MondayAbu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas military wing, told the Associated Press that Israel must at least begin freeing the women and minors. "Israel must understand that the resistance factions are serious in this matter. They will close this case if (Israel) doesn't deal with the demands," he said, adding that the militants would not compromise.

Abu Obeida refused to specify what the militants would do if the ultimatum was ignored.

Meanwhile, the European Union urged Israel on Monday to free Hamas officials, including eight Cabinet ministers and 26 legislators, and show restraint in its military campaign to force Palestinian militants to free Shalit. It also called for the soldier's "immediate and unconditional release."

During a visit to Helsinki, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU is "very concerned about the negative developments we are now seeing," and urged both parties to solve the conflict.

"We in the commission are ready to assist all the efforts of our member states to give positive contributions," Barroso said after talks with Finnish President Tarja Halonen whose country assumed the rotating EU presidency on Saturday.

The EU called on Palestinian leaders "To bring an end to violence and terrorist activities, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory."

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