Russia says Hamas prepared to extend ceasefire

Fri Mar 3, 2006 01:41 PM ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Palestinian election winner Hamas told Russia on Friday it was prepared to continue to abide by a ceasefire agreed last year if Israel does not use force, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"Hamas confirmed its readiness not to leave the agreement on the ceasefire adopted in March 2005 on the understanding that Israel will also refrain from violent actions," the ministry said in a statement after Russian officials held talks with Hamas leaders in Moscow.

A Hamas leader in Moscow, Ezzat El-Resheq, said the Islamic militant group would look positively on an extension of the ceasefire, but only if Israel "ended its aggression, assassinations and arrests and freed Palestinian prisoners."

"The ball is now in Israel's court," he told Reuters.

Israel says it takes military action to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.