Hamas leader wants end to international isolation

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MOSCOW, March 3 (RIA Novosti) - A Hamas leader said Friday that his movement would look to begin a process of international engagement during its visit to Moscow.

"Interaction with the international community is a high priority issue for us, and we see our visit to Moscow, the capital of a great world power, as the beginning of contacts," said Khaled Mashaal, an exiled Hamas leader heading the radical Islamist movement's delegation to Moscow for high-level talks.

Mashaal said Hamas also wanted to send a message regarding its stance on the Middle East to the world via Russia, representing the international community as a member of the quartet of international mediators that also includes the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union. Russia is the only member of the quartet not to label Hamas a terrorist organization.

"Our visit to Moscow is an important step to be heard by the international community," Mashaal said. "No preconditions have been set ahead of the visit. We just want to listen to Russia's stance and to outline our point of view. I consider that the problem is not in the Palestinian people but in the occupation [by Israel]. We want peace for the region, but it can be secured only with the end of the occupation."

Following its victory in the January 25 parliamentary elections, Hamas has come under international pressure to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and meet commitments pledged by previous Palestinian leaders.

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