Bush and Merkel support Israel

President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated their pledges that the U.S. and Germany will not deal with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas refuses to disavow terrorism and to acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

"Democratically elected leaders cannot have one foot in the camp of democracy and one foot in the camp of terror," Bush said Thursday night, repeating a theme of his administration since Hamas' election to head the Palestinian Authority in January.

The U.S. president, speaking at the American Jewish Committee's centennial dinner, was followed at the podium by Merkel, the first German chancellor to address the group's annual meeting. She backed Bush's positions against Hamas and Iran.

"It must not be permitted that Iran gets possession of nuclear weapons," said Merkel, who discussed Iran with Bush at the White House on Wednesday. "We need to stand together."

While supporting the formation of a Palestinian state, Merkel said Hamas will have to answer to the Palestinian people for the consequences of its policy not to negotiate with Israel.

"Israel's right to exist may never be questioned," Merkel added.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who also addressed the gathering, expressed support for a Middle East peace settlement that gives the Palestinians a state alongside Israel. He did not mention Hamas but promised that the United Nations would work with any person who truly seeks peace in the Middle East.

Bush also said he would keep pushing for a strong resolution at the United Nations to curb Iran's nuclear programs, reports the AP.


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