Israel's acting prime minister says Israel will work with Hamas

Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said Monday he will work with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as long as he does not join forces with Hamas.

Olmert also said Israel would continue transferring monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas is not in control. Hamas won parliament elections earlier this month, but has not yet begun forming a government.

"I have no interest in harming Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen as long as he doesn't cooperate with Hamas and as long as the Palestinian government isn't led by Hamas," Olmert said Monday. Abbas is widely known as Abu Mazen.

He spoke a day after Israel agreed Sunday to transfer $54 million (euro45 million) in desperately needed tax money to the Palestinian Authority, but said it might freeze payments after the Islamic Hamas group forms the next Palestinian government.

Israel's monthly transfer of the taxes and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinians is crucial to the functioning of the Palestinian Authority. Halting the payments would deepen the government's financial crisis and add to the growing international pressure on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel before it takes power, reports the AP.


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