EU legislators invite Hamas lawmakers to Brussels

GAZA Mon Nov 3, 2008 11:08pm IST

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GAZA (Reuters) - A European parliamentary delegation visited the Gaza Strip on Monday and invited all elected Palestinian lawmakers, including Hamas, to visit, even though the EU considers the Islamist group a terrorist organisation.

The invitation appeared to be little more than a symbolic gesture since Israel has jailed some 40 of Hamas's lawmakers and allows few Gazans to leave the coastal territory.

Like the United States, the European Union considers Hamas a terrorist organisation and boycotts the group, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing secular Fatah forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The invitation to visit the European parliament next spring was presented by Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, head of the European delegation, during talks with Ahmed Bahar, acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and a Hamas member.

"We don't care who they are as long as they are members of the Legislative Council," Triantaphyllides told Reuters. "We don't ask if they are members of Hamas or members of Fatah."

"The PLC was elected in 2006 and it was democratically elected," he added.

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