- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

LONDON — The United States and its allies said yesterday that they would support the new Hamas-led Palestinian government only if it renounces violence, accepts Israel’s existence and adopts the Palestinian Authority’s commitments.

The Bush administration, which first pushed the three conditions for the radical Islamic movement, won the backing of the European Union, Russia and the United Nations at a meeting of the so-called “Quartet” in London last night.

Hamas last week won an overwhelming parliamentary victory, scrambling the calculations for the U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“The Quartet concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that government’s commitment to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations,” the participants said.

They also called on the new Palestinian legislature to elect a Cabinet that is “committed to these principles.”

But Mohammed Nazzal, a Hamas leader in Damascus, the Syrian capital, told the Al Arabiya television network, “The Americans and the European Union are dreaming if they think they can force us to change our positions.”

In London, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suggested that the United States would join the European Union in continuing financial aid to the Palestinian Authority at least through the transitional period until Hamas takes over.

“There is a commitment here to try and live up to the obligations that were undertaken to the caretaker government, which [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] oversees,” she told reporters after the meeting.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that it could take up to three months for a new Palestinian government to form and that EU funding would continue at least until then.

Mr. Abbas and leaders of Hamas asked foreign donors yesterday not to cut off aid, which makes up more than two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority’s $1.6 billion annual budget. The European Union donated more than $500 million last year, and the United States gave $70 million.

“I stressed the importance of the continuation of financial and other types of support by the donor countries,” Mr. Abbas said after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s seat in the West Bank.

“We call on you to transfer all aid to the Palestinian treasury,” Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, said at another press conference. “We assure you that all the revenues will be spent on salaries, daily life and infrastructure.”

Arab governments, however, were silent on what they might do once Hamas forms a government, with analysts in the region predicting that aid from those countries is not likely to dry up.

The Quartet’s statement took note of the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority’s abysmal financial situation. Officials did not rule out aid through nongovernmental channels.

The U.S. Agency for International Development spent $225 million on humanitarian projects last year, including $88 million in refugee assistance, according to State Department figures.

“The Quartet should have demanded an end to [Israeli] occupation and aggression, … not demanded that the victim should recognize the occupation and stand handcuffed in the face of the aggression,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohri.

The Quartet’s statement, which was read at the press conference at the Savoy hotel in London by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, also had pointed words for Israel.

“We urge both parties to respect their existing agreements, including on movement and access,” Mr. Annan said.

“The Quartet reiterated its view that [Israeli] settlement expansion must stop, reiterated its concern regarding the route of the barrier and noted acting Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert’s recent statements that Israel will continue the process of removing unauthorized outposts,” he added.

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