- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

JERUSALEM - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking hours before the arrival of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a mission to revive peace talks, delivered a blunt message: “The world must deal” with Hamas.

He made his comments in a meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“President Abbas told David Welch that the Mecca agreement was the only possible agreement, and the world must deal with it,” Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said after the meeting.

He was referring to a Saudi-brokered deal between the militant Islamist group Hamas and Mr. Abbas’ secular Fatah party to share power in a new Palestinian government.

Miss Rice, who arrived in Jerusalem last night after a surprise visit to Iraq, acknowledged that her visit was taking place at a “complicated time.”

Immediately after her arrival, Miss Rice met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. She is to meet with Mr. Abbas today.

The climax of her visit is expected tomorrow, when Miss Rice hosts a summit between Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The summit has been clouded by Hamas’ continued refusal to meet three conditions recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting previous peace agreements.

Hamas is labeled a terrorist group by the United States and Europe, which have imposed a crippling economic embargo since the militant group won a majority of seats in the Palestinian government early last year.

“In the three-way meeting with Olmert and Rice, President Abbas is going to say that this government should be given a chance,” Mr. Abu Rdeneh said.

Miss Rice said the United States had decided it would wait until the installation of the new government before deciding whether to cooperate with it.

“It only makes sense that you have to renounce violence. It only makes sense that you have to recognize the right of your partner to exist and to respect international agreements,” Miss Rice said.

“Those principles remain the foundational principles for the formation of two states and the formation of a leadership that can lead to that two-state solution,” she said.

With the Palestinian government dependent on international aid, the previous Hamas government had been subject to an economic embargo by the United States and Europe.

Limited international aid has been channeled through Mr. Abbas, who was elected president in 2005. Power within the Palestinian government is split between the president and a Cabinet, which is lead by a prime minister.

The Cabinet posts of the new coalition government and its policy guidelines have yet to be agreed on.

The United States hopes the meeting tomorrow with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders will establish a set of principles to begin negotiations on a final Israel-Palestinian agreement.

Success would mark the first peace negotiations in six years, since Israeli and Palestinian diplomats failed to reach a deal in the waning hours of the Clinton administration and the first months of the Palestinian uprising.

But instead, Mr. Abbas, Mr. Olmert and Miss Rice appear likely to be detoured by the Mecca agreement and how it will affect relations with the Palestinian Authority and the flow of international aid.

“This is a very sensitive point in time after the agreements between the Fatah and Hamas. The understandings don’t meet the requirements of the international community,” Mrs. Livni said before her meeting with Miss Rice.

“These requirements are not an obstacle for peace, but they are the basic conditions and foundation for any kind of for the vision of a two-state solution.”

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