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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hamas minister unlikely to receive German visa

BERLIN (JTA) -- A Hamas government minister from the Gaza Strip is unlikely to receive a visa to attend a conference in Germany.

Basem Naim, the minister of health for the Hamas-led administration, reportedly was invited to attend a conference in June sponsored by the Protestant Academy in Bad Boll, Germany.

But a German Foreign Ministry spokesman told JTA that the official "attitude towards Hamas is unchanged: The federal government demands that all actors in the Middle East refrain from violence and recognize Israel's right to exist and the results of the peace process so far. This also applies to Hamas and remains the basis of every decision regarding this organization."

The spokesman said he could not comment on individual cases.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Joachim Beck, executive director of the academy, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper on Thursday that "there's a real campaign against us" for inviting Naim to their Mideast conference titled "Partners for Peace." Also reportedly invited are former Palestinian representative to Germany Abdallah Frangi, now head of the foreign ministry for the Fatah movement, and former Israel Knesset speaker Avraham Burg.

The academy reportedly has removed the logo of the Federal Agency for Civic Education from its invitation. The academy had hoped for financial support, but will not receive any from the federal government.

The head of the German-Israel Society, Johannes Gerster, reportedly wrote to the head of the Protestant council in Germany, Nikolaus Schneider, asking for a clear statement on the matter. Gerster said it was one thing to meet privately and speak with members of Hamas, as he himself has done, but it was another matter to invite a Hamas representative to a public forum.

"Obviously the organizers [of the conference] don't care that such actions actually encourage Hamas people, who are incapable of making compromises, to carry on their fight against Israel until the last Jew has left Palestine either dead or alive," Gerster said.

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