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Quartet: Hamas must change policy

Hamas urges West to keep aid tap flowing

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says the new Palestinian government is willing to have spending monitored.



Shaul Mofaz

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The international community is willing to provide crucial aid to Palestinians if the new Hamas-led government commits to non-violence, recognizes Israel's right to exist and accepts current Mideast peace agreements, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has said.

Annan made the statement Monday at the end of a meeting of the Mideast Quartet, composed of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

He described the session as a "very useful and constructive" meeting to discuss the rise of Hamas -- long considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel -- in Palestinian politics.

If Hamas transformed from militancy to a viable political party, Annan said, "I think the international community should be able to work with them."

However, he said any future aid would be "reviewed by donors against that government's commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and the acceptance of previous agreements and obligations."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the international community had a "deep concern for the Palestinian people and for their well-being."

But she said Hamas and its leaders had an obligation "to speak to the Palestinian people for a better life and for a peaceful life."

"That peaceful life can ... be achieved only through a two-state solution," she said. "It is incumbent on all to insist that any future Palestinian government will live up to this obligation."

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana added, "Once these conditions are fulfilled, the European Union will stand ready to continue to support Palestinian ground development and democratic stability."

Earlier in the day, Hamas appealed to world leaders to continue financial support to Palestinians.

"We call on you to understand the priorities of our Palestinian people at this stage and continue the spiritual and financial support in order to push the region toward stability rather than pressure and tension," said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

"We confirm to you this income will be used to pay the salaries of (government) employees and fund daily running costs and infrastructure. You can can confirm this through a mechanism that can be agreed upon."

Hamas has carried out numerous terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of Israelis over the years, and its charter calls for the destruction of Israel. The international community has demanded the charter be changed -- something the organization has refused to do.

"The Hamas Party has made it clear that they do not support the right of Israel to exist," U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters in Washington on Monday.

"And I have made it clear, so long as that's their policy, that we will not support a Palestinian government made up of Hamas." (Full story)

Hamas swept into power during last week's parliamentary elections, toppling the ruling Fatah, which had dominated Palestinian politics for decades.(Full story)

The victory also left Hamas largely responsible for ensuring the continued influx of funds that keep the Palestinian Authority running.

Hundreds of millions dollars contributed to the Palestinian Authority have disappeared over the years, according to the World Bank. And Hamas officials have railed against Palestinian Authority leaders for squandering much of the money. (Full story)

Palestinian leaders say funds are quickly running dry, and soon government employees could lose their jobs -- adding further chaos to the disarray already gripping Gaza and much of the West Bank.

Since 1993, the United States has given more than $1.5 billion to Palestinians -- some directly to the Palestinian Authority and some through the United Nations and private aid groups. For 2006, the United States budgeted $234 million for Palestinian aid.

Last year, the European Union gave the Palestinian Authority more than $600 million.

Both the United States and the EU list Hamas as a terrorist organization, and make it illegal for citizens to give money to the group.

At a meeting Monday in Brussels, EU officials called on Hamas to change.

"We have expressed once more the continuous policy that we have been following in the Middle East, that violence and terror are incompatible with democratic processes," said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, at a news conference after the EU meeting. (Full story)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah leader whose future role in the Palestinian government is now in question, met Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Afterwards, he said European nations "must understand that the Palestinian people are badly in need of this aid."

He added that Palestinian officials "have approached" European leaders "and spoken to all parties involved."

Merkel said Sunday it would be "unimaginable" that the European Union will support the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas renounces violence and accepts Israel's right to exist. (Full story)

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