Condoleezza Rice wants other countries not to help Hamas Palestinian government

The United States wants other nations to cut off aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian government, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said before an international strategy session on Mideast peace prospects. Rice ruled out any U.S. financial assistance to a Hamas government. Humanitarian help to the Palestinians, many of whom are poor and unemployed, is likely on a "case-by-case basis," Rice said Sunday. She indicated that the administration would follow through on aid promised to the current, U.S.-backed Palestinian government led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations," under an international framework for eventual Mideast peace, Rice said.

Rice was meeting other members of the so-called Quartet of would-be Middle East peacemakers Monday. The group, which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, is already on record as saying "there is a fundamental contradiction between armed group and militia activities and the building of a democratic state."

In Gaza meanwhile, a Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, called on the international community to continue funding the Palestinian Authority.

"We assure you that all the revenues will be spent on salaries, daily life and infrastructure," he said at a news conference, addressing international concerns that aid would be used to fund violence.

Diplomats here said ministers with the European Union were ready to jointly call on Hamas to recognize the state of Israel, renounce violence and disarm.

While EU officials are barred from contact with the Islamic militant group, which it considers a terrorist organization, the EU statement was to make clear that the EU would keep diplomatic channels open with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is not a member of Hamas, diplomats said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks.

Rice also will meet separately with other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to discuss Iran and an upcoming vote on whether to refer the Tehran government to the council over its nuclear program.

Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, won a decisive majority in last week's Palestinian legislative elections. The group, which has political and militant wings, will now take a large role in governing the Palestinians. The makeup of the new government is not clear.

The Islamic militants, who carried out dozens of suicide bombings and seek Israel's destruction, have said they oppose peace talks and will not disarm. Israel refuses to deal with Hamas.

Hamas' unexpected electoral victory raised questions about the future of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel, and how the United States can influence such efforts or help impoverished Palestinians.

"We're going to review all of our assistance programs, but the bedrock principle here is we can't have funding for an organization that holds those views just because it is in government," Rice said.

The U.S., Europe and Israel list Hamas as a terrorist organization; various Arab governments have contact with the group.

"It is important that Hamas now will have to confront the implications of its covenant if it wishes to govern," Rice said. "That becomes a primary consideration in anything that we do."

It is not clear that all European nations or the United Nations would cut off aid, let alone Arab governments that do not recognize Israel.

"I just think that anyone who is devoted to trying to bring Middle East peace between two states has an obligation now to make sure that anybody that is going to be supported is going to have that same" goal, Rice said.

U.S. aid is a small part of the $1.6 billion annual budget of the Palestinian Authority.

About $1 billion comes from overseas donors more than half of that from European nations. The rest is a mix of funds from international donor agencies, Arab and Asian governments, and the U.S., which gave $70 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority last year.

Separately, the U.S. spent $225 million for humanitarian projects through the U.S. Agency for International Development last year, and gave $88 million for refugee assistance, reports the AP.


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