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UK ex-foreign secretary Straw hints he was sacked after urging Hamas dialogue

Media reports say Straw may have been removed from his post in 2006 at request of US administration of George W Bush
Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw (AFP)

Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw intimated on Saturday that his dismissal was connected to a briefing he gave to a group of journalists in Riyadh.

Speaking at a conference in London, Straw said: "I am unhappy about our boycotting of Hamas. I talked off the record to some journalists in Riyadh in early 2006 and said we ought to be talking to Hamas."

He added that "some people say I was removed from the post of foreign secretary" because of these comments, hinting at the reason behind his sacking in 2006.

Media reports in August of that year said there was evidence he was removed from his post at the request of the US administration of George W Bush, though the reason was not clear at the time.

It is important to push for negotiations when dealing with international crises, Straw added on Saturday at the conference on Saudi Arabia hosted by Middle East Monitor, citing the boycott of Hamas by foreign governments as a failure in this respect.

Blair says Hamas boycott was wrong

Last month, former prime minister Tony Blair was cited in the Guardian as saying for the first time that he and other world leaders were wrong to yield to Israeli pressure to impose an immediate boycott of Hamas after the Islamic faction won Palestinian elections in 2006.

As prime minister at the time, Blair offered strong support for the decision – driven by the George W Bush White House – to halt aid and cut off relations with the newly elected Hamas-led Palestinian Authority unless it agreed to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous agreements between its Fatah predecessors and Israel, the Guardian said.

The ultimatum was rejected by Hamas. The elections were judged free and fair by international monitors.

Blair now says the international community should have tried to "pull Hamas into a dialogue," according to the Guardian.

Blair's conversion came after a series of meetings with Khaled Meshaal, former political director of Hamas, in Doha over the past two years.

Hamas recently changed its charter, recognising the PLO as the national framework for the Palestinian people and accepting the borders of 4 June 1967 for a Palestinian state.

The boycott and Israel's economic blockade of Gaza, which began in 2007, are still in force.

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