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Friday, December 8, 2006

Thousands attend Gaza rally calling for Haniyeh to remain PM

Last update - 16:33 08/12/2006

Thousands attend Gaza rally calling for Haniyeh to remain PM
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in Gaza on Friday, demanding
that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas head any Palestinian
unity government, despite a deal for him to step aside as a means of restoring
Western aid.

The public show of support for Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, puts pressure
on the ruling militant movement to retain him as their candidate to lead a
possible new cabinet.

That would further complicate unity government talks that moderate
Palestinaian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah faction has
said are at a dead end.

"We want you [Haniyeh] to be the prime minister. We will not abandon your
leadership of the cabinet," Ismail Rudwan, a Hamas spokesman, told the rally
held in front of the Legislative Council in Gaza City.

"We demand the leadership of Hamas retain... Ismail Haniyeh as head of the
government and head any coming government."

Earlier Friday, during a visit to Iran Haniyeh vowed that his Hamas-led
government will never recognize Israel and will continue to fight for the
liberation of Jerusalem.

"The world arrogance (U.S.) and Zionists ... want us to recognize the
usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept
the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past," Haniyeh told
thousands prayer worshippers in a speech at Tehran University.

"I'm insisting from this podium that these issues won't materialize. We will
never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our
jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.

Haniyeh arrived in Tehran on Thursday for talks with Iranian leaders,
including hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state-run media reported.
This is Haniyeh's first tour abroad since Hamas took power in March.

Haniyeh praised the Iranians during his visit for the aid it has given the

"They [Israelis] assume the Palestinian nation is alone. This is an illusion.
... We have a strategic depth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This country
[Iran] is our powerful, dynamic and stable depth," he said.

Iran has provided the Hamas-led Palestinian government with $120 million this
year despite a U.S.-led international financial boycott
of the Palestinian government. The financial aid has boosted Iran's influence
among Palestinians.

The Palestinian prime minister will also meet with supreme leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, the official Islamic
Republic News Agency reported. He will also deliver a speech to students at
Tehran University during his visit.

Iran has provided the Hamas-led Palestinian government with $120 million this
year, increasing its aid to the militant group and boosting its influence
among Palestinians amid an international economic boycott of the Palestinian

Muslims and independence-seeking nations support the Palestinians because they
have adopted the correct position towards the occupiers," Iranian First Vice
President Parviz Davoudi told Haniyeh at the start of his four-day visit to

"Iran is ready to offer its valuable achievements and experiences in different
fields to the Palestinian nation," the official IRNA news agency quoted
Davoudi as saying.

Iran's support for the Palestinians has grown more vocal since Ahmadinejad
came to power in August 2005. The former Revolutionary Guardsman has called
the Israeli state a "tumor" which must be "wiped off the map".

Haniyeh, whose tour was also to include Syria, thanked Iran for its support
and said Palestinian resistance of Israel would continue. "The popular
Palestinian government not only has not recognized the occupiers but also
considers resistance the natural right of the Palestinian nation."

Haniyeh will meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and
deliver a speech to students at Tehran University during his visit, IRNA said.

The "Quartet" of Middle East mediators - the United States, the European
Union, the United Nations, and Russia - is pressing Hamas to recognize Israel,
renounce violence, and accept previous agreements signed between Israel and
the Palestinian Authority.

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