Abbas criticizes Hamas during visit to Chechnya

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on a visit to Russia on Sunday strongly criticized the radical Islamic Hamas movement, dpa reported.

The abuse of religion for political ends, as practiced by Hamas, was unacceptable, Abbas said in the city of Grozny, according to the Interfax new agency.

Extremists were to blame for Islam receiving so little respect in the world at present, he said. In reality, terrorists had no relationship with religion.

Abbas is the head of the Fatah Party, Hamas' rival. He also spoke of trying to unite Palestinians by trying to enter into dialogue with Hamas. This, he said, was difficult.

In talks with the Kremlin leadership in Grozny, he predicted "a bright future" for Chechnya. The region, affected by two wars in the 1990s had "paid a high price." Palestinians and Chechens had much in common, Abbas added.

Abbas accompanied Chechen President Ramsan Kadyrov on a visit to the grave of Kadyrov's father Achmat, the former president who was killed in a bomb attack on a stadium in Grozny in May 2004.

Kadyrov described Abbas as "a true Muslim," while Abbas said he followed developments in Chechnya closely.

Abbas arrived in Chechnya the previous night. He felt "at home" in the North Caucasus, he said, amid minus temperatures and thick snowfall at the airport in Grozny. He was due to travel to Moscow later Sunday for a three-day visit that includes scheduled talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Ahead of Abbas' arrival in the region, the so-called Middle East Quartet, of which Russia is a member, accused Hamas of not doing enough to ensure the continuation of a ceasefire.

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