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Hamas shakes up Mideast politics

**funny how bush said you cannot bring peace by bombing a country...when he lied and then bombed one under false pretenses....the american hypocrisy has been alive for centuries......

Fatah official: 'We have lost the elections; Hamas has won'

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- The Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which has said it favors the destruction of Israel, won an apparent victory in Palestinian legislative elections, officials said Thursday, reshaping the political landscape of the Middle East.

"We have lost the elections; Hamas has won," said Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian lawmaker with the ruling Fatah Party. He said Fatah, which has held power since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, will now be the opposition.

During a White House news conference Thursday, President Bush -- whose Middle East policy includes support for emerging democracies -- said he would not deal with Hamas unless it renounced terrorism. (Watch Bush face tough questioning -- 5:37)

"We don't have a government yet, so you're asking me to speculate on what the government will look like," Bush told reporters. "I have made it very clear, however, that a political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal."

"I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform."

Although official results are not expected until 7 p.m. (noon ET), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has already accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei, Erakat said Thursday. The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority Cabinet also has resigned.

"We would hope [Abbas] would stay in office and work to move the process forward," Bush said, acknowledging that the election appeared to "open the eyes" of the Palestinian "old guard."

"Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo," Bush said.

"The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care."

"It's a wake-up call to the leadership," Bush said, many of whom are holdovers from the days of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Shots and scuffles
In the West Bank, Hamas and Fatah supporters scuffled Thursday outside the Palestinian parliament building when Hamas supporters attempted to raise the green Hamas flag.

Shots were fired into the air, observers said. The scuffle came as thousands of Palestinians celebrated the election results in Ramallah and Gaza.

A Hamas victory will mark the first opportunity for the group -- which the United States and Israel consider to be a terrorist organization -- to run a government. Hamas has operated a successful network of charities and schools in Gaza. (What is Hamas?)

Erakat said Abbas will soon ask Hamas to form a new government.

"Fatah will not take part in any national unity government," said Erakat. "Fatah will try to redefine itself." (Reaction to vote)

Hamas leaders claimed the group had won a sweeping victory with between 68 and 72 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council.

"It's the choice of the people and it should be respected," Qorei said. "I think, if the majority is approved and has been reached, I think Hamas should form a new government, it's true. The president should ask Hamas to form a new government.

"For me personally, I sent my resignation to the president to enable him to choose a new prime minister," Qorei said.

Olmert: 'Will not negotiate'
Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel could not accept a situation in which Hamas in its current configuration -- committed to the destruction of Israel -- was a part of the Palestinian Authority.

"I will not negotiate with a government that does not meet its most basic obligations -- to fight terrorism. We are prepared to assist the Palestinians and [Palestinian President Abbas] very much but they must meet their commitments," Olmert said, according to a statement released by his office.

The European Union, meanwhile, said it was prepared to work with any government -- to a point.

"We are prepared to work with any Palestinian government, if this government seeks peace, using peaceful means," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU external relations commissioner.

Hamas, which boycotted the last election in 1996, capitalized on widespread dissatisfaction with what is seen as corruption within the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, and a perceived inability by the authority to manage the affairs of the Palestinians.

Fatah was formed in 1965 by Arafat, who died in November 2004, and dominated Palestinian politics for decades as the mainstream Palestinian nationalist movement.

"Mostly, they were voting for opposition and voting against Fatah -- against corruption, against nepotism, against the failure of the peace process, and against the lack of leadership," said Mustafa Barghouti with the Palestinian National Initiative, a democratic opposition movement.

He said Wednesday "was a great day for Palestine. This is the best democratic practice ever in the Arab world." (Watch Gaza residents talk about why election day is so important -- 2:32)

Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

Turnout near 78 percent
Election officials estimated about 77.7 percent of the eligible 1.3 million voters turned out to cast their ballots at more than 1,000 polling stations. Voting closed around 7 p.m. (noon ET) in Gaza and the West Bank, and it was extended in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem for two hours to accommodate heavy turnout. (Watch how preliminary results divide up seats -- 3:05)

Among those who joined the voters were Abbas and Mahmoud Zahar, the leader of Hamas. Militant Palestinian groups had agreed to a cease-fire during the voting, and there were no reports of major violence.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa told CNN: "It's a happy day. There is no doubt about that. And I think that the Palestinian people are generally happy because of this." (Read how the vote demonstrates Palestinians' will to flex their political muscle)

CNN's John Vause, Guy Raz and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.
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