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French Version

Jordan demands Hamas send team to find weapons

Jordan told Hamas on Sunday to send a team to find weapons it accuses the Palestinian group of hiding on its soil as a first step to ending a crisis sparked by accusations of a bombing plot.

Jordan rejected an offer made Saturday by Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahhar to travel to Amman for talks aimed at mending strained relations.

Jordan said last week that it had seized Iranian-made Katyusha rockets and arrested 20 suspects in its investigation into alleged plots by Hamas to carry out attacks in Jordan. It cancelled a visit by Zahhar last month after the discovery of an arms cache which it also claimed had been smuggled from Syria.

"The government wants the Palestinian government to send a security team that is in position to reveal more information [about the plot] and the location of the other arms caches that the security forces say still exists in Jordan," government spokes-man Nasser Joudeh said.

"All this must happen before embarking in any political contacts with the Palestinian government in this phase."

He added that a visit by Zahhar was inappropriate until Hamas came clean over additional arms caches the authorities believe are hidden.

In his offer Zahhar insisted that Hamas "poses no security problem in Arab countries and certainly not in Jordan."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya said he was surprised at the rejection of Zahhar's offer and insisted settling the crisis could only come through political dialogue.

"We are fully convinced that any meeting should be political in order to treat, discuss and look into the future of the relationship and not on the basis of accusations," he said in Gaza.

"We do not interfere in the affairs of any Arab country, and we regard the security of these countries as if it were the security of Palestine," Haniyya added.

Both Iran and Syria denied as "baseless" the Jordanian allegations of supplying Hamas with weapons and helping the group smuggle arms to Jordan.

"Our cooperation with Palestine is humanitarian and spiritual support," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

The Palestinian government refused to join a committee set up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to investigate the case with Jordanian officials.

On Thursday, two of the Jordanian suspects arrested last month said on Jordanian television they were recruited by operatives from the group's Damascus-based leadership.

There was no way to independently verify the authenticity of the confessions. Lawyers and human rights groups say that many confessions by political detainees are extracted under duress.

Amman,15May2006
Redaction
The Daily Star


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