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India cautiously welcomes Palestine polls verdict

India cautiously welcomed the Palestinian verdict that gave a stunning victory to Islamic radical group Hamas, crushing the Fatah.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 20:49 IST

India on Saturday cautiously welcomed the Palestinian verdict that gave a stunning victory to Islamic radical group Hamas, crushing the Fatah.

Fatah, for decades enjoyed New Delhi's unflinching support.

The External Affairs Ministry welcomed the holding of "free and fair elections" in Palestine and hoped the next government will continue to pursue the peace process with Israel.

But the ministry's statement made no specific reference to Hamas, which has carried out numerous suicide attacks against Israel and is considered a terror outfit by both Washington and Tel Aviv.

"We welcome the holding of free and fair elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council which have strengthened the democratic process in Palestine," said the statement.

"The wide and enthusiastic participation of the Palestinian people in these elections and the peaceful nature of the polling are most encouraging."

Hamas is a radical Palestinian organisation that entered the electoral process for the first time in Wednesday's ballot and won 76 seats in the 132-member Palestinian parliament.

Unlike the moderate Fatah, which was founded by Yasser Arafat, a man who considered India a friend, the Hamas is bitterly opposed to the state of Israel, which has close military and diplomatic ties with New Delhi.

"We are closely following the developments regarding the formation of the next government of the Palestinian Authority," said the statement.

"We hope that the new government, representing the will of the Palestinian people, will continue to pursue the path of peaceful negotiations, leading to the establishment of a viable, united and sovereign state of Palestine living in peaceful coexistence with the state of Israel," the statement said.

During the Saudi King Abdullah's visit to India that ended Friday, he discussed the situation in the Middle East with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The surprise victory of the Hamas is sure to figure in the discussions between Israeli National Security Adviser Giora Eiland and top Indian officials next week.

Hamas' rise to power has sparked widespread concern in the West about the future of the Middle East peace process. Israel has vowed not to engage with the Hamas in any dialogue if it forms the next government.

First Published: Jan 28, 2006 20:49 IST