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Hamas Says It's Considering Offer to Join Arafat's Rule

June 14, 1998| From Associated Press

GAZA CITY — The radical Islamic group Hamas said Saturday that it is weighing an invitation to join the government of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Hamas, which bitterly opposes the peace accords between the Palestinians and Israel, has never before sought an official position in the Palestinian Authority.

Representatives of Hamas were asked to meet Tuesday with Arafat to discuss participation in the next government, Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar said in the Gaza Strip.

"This offer is being studied in Hamas right now, and we will respond in the right time," he said.

Atayeb Abdel Rahim, one of Arafat's most senior aides, confirmed the government's overture to Hamas.

"We are inviting all factions--those who participate in the government and those who do not, including Hamas--to participate in consultations on the new government," he said.

Arafat is reshuffling his government in the coming week to avoid a no-confidence vote by the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The potential rapprochement could signal an attempt by Arafat to neutralize the growing Hamas challenge to his authority.

However, the effort also could complicate the Palestinian leader's dealings with Israel and the United States.

The two countries have been pressuring Arafat to crack down on militant groups such as Hamas, which has killed scores of Israelis with its recent suicide bombing attacks.

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