JERUSALEM – “Sensible” members of Hamas can be counted on as partners for progress toward peace in the Middle East, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today.

Speaking to the British Parliament prior to a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blair said, “I think there are possibilities for progress and I hope that in the coming weeks a framework to take this forward becomes a bit clearer.”

“It’s far easier to deal with the situation in Palestine if there is a national unity government. … I hope we can make progress, including even with the more sensible elements of Hamas.”

Blair was referring to a national unity deal forged in Mecca earlier this month between Abbas’ Fatah party and the Hamas terror group. The agreement, which aimed to end months of Palestinian infighting, does not call for the new Palestinian unity government to recognize Israel and does not commit Hamas to abide by previous peace deals with Israel, only to “respect” the previous peace deals.

Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian emissary to London, hailed Blair’s remarks and urged the British prime minister to persuade the U.S. to negotiate with Hamas.

“President Abbas wants Prime Minister Blair to persuade the Americans that the Mecca deal is the only way out,” Hassassian said.

“If there is any European country that can influence the Americans it’s going to be the UK, given the fact that Blair is a personal friend of President Bush.”

Blair’s comments come two months after WND reported Hamas said it held meetings with high-ranking European officials and American figures, including members of the Democratic Party.

A Hamas source claimed Britain and France held meetings with the terror group in which discussions addressed the possibility of breaking an international financial embargo imposed on the PA since Hamas won parliamentary elections.

The source claimed Britain and France are “coming to terms” with the Hamas position of mediating the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a long-term cease-fire instead of final status negotiations in which the PA would agree to peace with Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state. The source said the two countries asked Hamas for a position paper outlining ideas for a long-term truce with Israel.

According to the Palestinian Maannews agency, Hamas sources claimed their meetings with European representatives “broke the ice” and facilitated alleged talks with Democrat officials.

Ahmed Yousuf, chief political advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, confirmed in December claims Hamas officials met with Democratic officials. He said Hamas also met with European leaders, including members of the British parliament.

Yousuf did not say when the meetings took place or which members of the Democratic Party the terror group allegedly held dialogue with, but he stated the meetings were fruitful in introducing the Hamas political vision.

A top Hamas source had claimed the alleged meeting with the Democrats took place in a European country.

The source claimed the Democrats expressed an understanding with the Hamas principal of not recognizing Israel and applauded Hamas’ willingness to accept a long-term cease-fire with the Jewish state in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to what is known as the pre-1967 borders – meaning an evacuation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem.

In December, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said his group would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.

Israel withdrew from Gaza last summer. Since then, Palestinian terror groups have been regularly firing rockets from the territory into nearby Jewish cities. The West Bank is within rocket-firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.

Stacie Paxton, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, told WND the party was not aware of any meeting.

Hamas, responsible for scores of deadly suicide bombings, shooting attacks and rocket launchings against Israeli civilians, is classified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

The U.S. reportedly has been working to bolster PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party against Hamas. The U.S. considers Fatah to be moderate.

Terrorists: ‘Vote Democrat’

In December, just prior to U.S. midterm elections, WND conducted a series of well-circulated exclusive interviews in which prominent Middle East terrorist leaders said they hoped Americans would sweep the Democrats into power because of the party’s position on withdrawing from Iraq – a move, the terrorists explained, that would ensure victory for the worldwide Islamic resistance.

The terrorists told WND an electoral win for the Democrats would prove to them Americans are “tired.” They rejected statements from some prominent Democrats in the U.S. that a withdrawal from Iraq would end the insurgency, explaining an evacuation would prove resistance works and would compel jihadists to continue fighting until America is destroyed.

They said a withdrawal would also embolden their own terror groups to enhance “resistance” against Israel.

“Of course Americans should vote Democrat,” Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the infamous leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, told WND in November.

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