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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 14, 2003

Hamas, Hizbullah in terror summit as U.S. turns up the heat

The leaders of Hamas and Hizbullah are drafting strategy amid U.S. pressure to expel groups on the State Department terrorist list harbored by Syria.

Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah met a Hamas delegation over the weekend that included political chief Mussa Abu Marzouq. Mohammed Nazal, a member of the Hamas's politburo, and Hamas representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, were also part of the delegation that met Nasrallah.

A statement by Hizbullah said the two groups discussed "developments in the region since the invasion of Iraq and its occupation." The statement did not elaborate, but Western diplomatic sources said the two groups sought to coordinate their positions before they met Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to Lebanon.

Khatami arrived in Beirut on Monday and met Lebanese leaders. He was scheduled to meet Hizbullah leaders as well as address a rally organized by the group.

"There is significant concern by Hizbullah that Syria will be pressured by the United States to withdraw support," a diplomatic source said. "Nasrallah is concerned that Iran might also be forced to end support for Hizbullah."

Hamas and Hizbullah said in a statement that they would not suspend their activities amid U.S. pressure on Syria. Syria harbors both groups and has facilitated the transfer of Iranian weaponry to Hizbullah in Lebanon.

"According to my information, the [U.S.] demand is to end and disarm the resistance in Lebanon," Nasrallah said before the meeting.

The Hizbullah chief said Iran and Syria were committed to Hizbullah and would not abandon the organization even in exchange for improved U.S. relations.

In his meeting with Hamas, Nasrallah was accompanied by a member of his group's political committee, Hassan Khadarj. The statement said the meeting focused on "the exploitation of the U.S. administration of the new reality for the worsening of the Palestinian question and the rights of the Palestinian people regarding the roadmap and the continuation of the Israeli belligerence on the Palestinian people."

The United States has designated Hamas and Hizbullah as major terrorist threats to the United States. The FBI has determined that the groups have hundreds of agents in such cities as Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington.

"Since [Syrian President Bashar] Assad inherited the presidency from his father, Hizbullah has moved energetically into the Palestinian arena, both by sending its own operatives to attempt terrorist attacks inside Israel and by establishing links with terrorist groups in the West Bank, Gaza, and among Israeli Arabs," a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said. "Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are more active in Syrian-controlled Lebanon than ever."