Hamas invites French foreign minister to visit Gaza
The Hamas government ruling the Gaza Strip on Saturday called on French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to visit the territory to learn about the suffering of its people, reported dpa.
Taher al-Nounou, a spokesman for the government, said the invitation "was motivated by France's moral stance which was reflected throughout Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's remarks."
Kouchner, who has been visiting Israel and the West Bank since Tuesday, criticized the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the restrictions that Israel imposes on the movement of Palestinians.
Earlier, the French diplomat confirmed reports that a retired French official has held contacts with Hamas despite the US and European boycott on the Islamic movement.
Al-Nounou added that the Hamas government "welcomes an active French role for ending the current divisions among the Palestinians," referring to the standoff between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.
In June 2007, Hamas ousted the long-dominant Fatah and routed pro- Abbas forces in fierce battles in Gaza, taking over the entire Gaza Strip. Abbas fired the Hamas government and formed a Western-backed administration based in the West Bank. However, Hamas kept ruling the coastal Strip and Israel sealed off the impoverished enclave.