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Hamas Reportedly Pledges To Live 'Side By Side' With Neighbors

Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siam (left), Prime Minister Ismael Haneiya (center), and Foreign Minister Mahmud al-Zahar (right) at the Hamas swearing-in ceremony in Gaza City, March 29 (epa) April 4, 2006 -- The French news agency AFP says it has obtained a letter from the foreign minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian government saying it is ready to support a policy of living "side by side" with its neighbors.

It wasn't immediately clear if the letter marks a change in Hamas' policies. Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

The agency quotes the letter, from Foreign Minister Mahmud al-Zahar to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as saying the government is committed to "serious discussions" with the sponsors of the Middle East peace process.

An official in Zahar's office in Gaza City, however, later denied the letter included any sense of recognizing Israel or its right to exist.