04/26/2006, 00.00
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Amman and Damascus trade accusations over "armed" Hamas militants

Jordan says group was preparing attacks; Islamist group denies claims. Palestinian President says information is "dangerous and surprising".

Amman (AsiaNews) – A round of accusations, counteraccusations and denials involving Jordan, Syria, Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has began over the arrest in Jordan of several members of the Palestinian militant group, who the Jordanians say were planning to carry out attacks against officials and installations in the kingdom under orders from the movement's Syria-based military leader.

In Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri and Syria denied the charges but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after meeting Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit said the information he received about the incident was "dangerous and surprising."

In a report published by the Jordan Times, Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh said that the foiled plot was "in the final stages of execution" and that the men involved were seized in a northern village with weapons, including TNT explosives and light anti-tank LAW rockets.

The armed men were surveying "strategic spots in Amman and other cities" and the weapons were smuggled into the country from neighbouring Syria.

"Interrogations of suspects proved that they received instructions from a Hamas leader, specifically an official of the Hamas' military wing, who is now in Syria," the spokesman said.

Fallout from the incident has already led to the postponement of a visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar to Jordan.

Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported that an official source at the Foreign Ministry denied claims by the Jordanian government spokesman of smuggling arms to Jordan via Syria. It also said Damascus was unaware of any Hamas military leadership within its borders, lamenting that such claims are not useful to the brotherly relations between Syria and Jordan.

For its part, Hamas said that Amman "is taking part in an international campaign against the Palestinian people". It reiterated that it has no armed group in Syria or Jordan or anywhere else.

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