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    Mideast peace process impossible without Hamas - Russian senator

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    "Although [Israel's acting Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert urged [PNA head] Mahmoud Abbas to attend talks after the parliamentary elections in Israel ... they will be impossible without a dialogue with Hamas, which is now the main political force in Palestine"

    MOSCOW, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - The road map peace plan in the Middle East cannot succeed without a dialogue with the new Palestinian leadership, a senior member of Russia's upper chamber of parliament said Friday.

    In the wake of centrist party Kadima's win in Tuesday's Israeli parliamentary elections, Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the Federation Council's foreign affairs committee, said radical movement Hamas had to be involved in any negotiations in the peace process following its own triumph at the polls in the Palestinian National Authority earlier in the year.

    "Although [Israel's acting Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert urged [PNA head] Mahmoud Abbas to attend talks after the parliamentary elections in Israel ... they will be impossible without a dialogue with Hamas, which is now the main political force in Palestine," Margelov said.

    Given that Israeli politics has been dominated in recent years by the now incapacitated Ariel Sharon, who was the driving force behind unilateral disengagement from contentious territories and broke away from right-wing Likud only a few months ago to establish Kadima, Margelov said there was no strong force capable of a dialogue either in Israel or in Palestine.

    "The Hamas refusing to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and Israel fencing off from Palestine are a bitter reality," the senator said.

    Russia has urged Hamas, which has in the past claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks in the region and is a source of concern for Israel and some Western countries, to recognize Israel under the road map peace plan and was the first major country to invite a delegation to talks earlier this month.

    Although Russia, along with the UN, United States and European Union, is a member of the Quartet of mediators in the Middle East that proposed the road map peace plan, at least one Israeli politician likened the invitation at the time to a "stab in the back."

    But Margelov said the results of the election in Israel had been "fairly predictable", as the earlier success of Hamas had compelled many Israelis to vote for forces that advocated unilateral steps to advance the peace process.

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