Quartet to Hamas: Change or Lose Aid

The Bush administration won support from other would-be Mideast peacemakers Monday in saying a Hamas-led Palestinian government would have to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist in order to receive crucial financial aid.

Hamas must accept the rule of law, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said after a meeting among members of the so-called Quartet that has tried to shepherd Israel and the Palestinians back to the peace table.

Annan said future aid to a new Palestinian government led by the militant Islamic group "would be reviewed by donors against that government's commitment to renounce violence, recognition of Israel" and other agreements, including the so-called roadmap peace plan that calls for the co-existence of Israel and a Palestinian state.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed Annan's words, saying, "It is incumbent now for all to insist that any future Palestinian government will live up to these obligations."

It remained unclear exactly what would happen to the international assistance that makes up most of the Palestinian Authority's $1.6 billion annual budget. About $1 billion comes from Europe, the United States and other donor countries and international agencies, including $70 million from the U.S.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas appealed for continued world support, as did a Hamas leader who said his movement had written to the Quartet asking for direct talks and offering assurances that international aid would not go to Palestinian militants.

"We call on you to transfer all aid to the Palestinian treasury," Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza, told a news conference. "We assure you that all the revenues will be spent on salaries, daily life and infrastructure."

Hamas also has said it would try to turn to the Arab and Muslim world for money if the U.S. and Europe cut back.

Hamas won a surprise victory in last week's legislative elections, setting the Islamic militant group up to run the next government in the Palestinian territories bordering Israel. But the wary international reaction to its victory raised questions about how the Palestinian Authority would finance its annual budget.

President Bush insisted anew on Monday that the United States would not give direct aid to a government that includes terrorists. However, European leaders seemed less inclined to an immediate aid cutoff.

The Quartet includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. Rice minimized any differences among the group's members over aid to an extremist Islamic group that does not recognize Israel's right to exist.

"Everybody is saying exactly the same thing. ... You cannot be on one hand dedicated to peace and on the other dedicated to violence. Those two things are irreconcilable," she said.