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EU rejects full Hamas ban (BBC) 06/27/03 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK) Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3026992.stm
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The European Commission has rejected calls from the United States to outlaw the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, as a terrorist organisation.
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The chief spokesman for the Commission, Reijo Kemppinen, said that although the EU had banned Hamas´ military organisation, it would not act against the group´s political wing.
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His statement came two days after President Bush strongly urged the Europeans to stamp out all fund-raising for Hamas and seize its assets, saying the group was an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
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Correspondents say the EU continues to distinguish between the welfare activities of Hamas and its military operations, which regularly include suicide attacks in Israel.
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Diplomats are quoted as saying that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asked the EU to press Hamas into accepting a ceasefire, but to refrain from moves that would make his own position more difficult.
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Speaking at a joint summit between US and European leaders on Wednesday, Mr Bush said the dismantling of such groups would be the "true test" of the so-called roadmap for peace in the Middle East.
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Last year, the EU outlawed the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing.
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But Mr Kemppinen said the political wing of the organisation was legitimate as it carried out social welfare activities such as running clinics and schools.
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"You can´t say that the whole of Hamas is a terrorist organisation and certainly that is not our position," he said.
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"Clearly there is some disagreement."
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Correspondents say that the strongest opposition to a complete ban on Hamas has come from France, which believes the political wing has a role in the Middle East peace process.
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Some other EU members, led by the United Kingdom, have been urging the union to follow the US position. (© BBC MMIII 06/27/03)
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