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Wednesday, August 10, 2011     GET REAL

Hamas claims 'significant breakthroughs'
in image campaign with West

GAZA CITY — Hamas said it has improved relations with the West.


The Islamic movement has reported expanded contacts with Western states, including members of NATO. Hamas spokespeople said the communications have resulted in an improvement in relations with the European Union.

"I believe there are significant breakthroughs in the relationships between Hamas and several Western states," Hamas foreign relations director Osama Hamdan said. "Europe is showing more understanding of Hamas' positions."

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Hamdan, based in Lebanon, said Western countries were realizing that Hamas was an authentic Islamic movement, Middle East Newsline reported. He cited the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, in which the Muslim Brotherhood played a leading role.

"We believe that the popular revolutions come in the context of liberating the [Arabs and Muslims] from dependency," Hamdan said. "The people seeking liberation realize the magnitude of the challenges."

The statement came amid a Hamas campaign to project a moderate image in the West. Hamas leaders, including Khaled Masha'al, have been interviewed in leading European and American publications on the movement and its goals.

"Our policy, as a movement, is that we have never behaved in a way that leads to more problems in the Arab world," Hamdan said in May. "Hamas' positions have been responsible and keen to serve the interests of the [Arabs and Muslims]. No one can doubt that."

Hamas has been under severe pressure to re-locate from Syria amid the Arab revolt. The Palestinian movement, with headquarters in Damascus for nearly the last 20 years, has refrained from supporting the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Despite its image campaign, Hamdan refused to point to any achievements by Hamas. He said the movement was waiting for decisions by Western governments to legitimize Hamas, currently on the list of terrorist organizations compiled by the EU and the United States.

"But I believe it is too early to rush to conclusions," Hamdan said. "We should see something practical on the ground and not just statements."

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