U.S.: Hamas Stopping Attacks on Israel Not Enough

A suspension of attacks on Israel would not induce the Bush administration to abandon its boycott of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, a top State Department official said Thursday.

"It doesn't seem to me you can push the pause button on terror," David Welch, the assistant secretary of state for the Near East, said at a news conference.

If Hamas, which the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization, accepts Israel's right to exist, "perhaps there will be a different situation," Welch said.

Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Israel, is expected to dominate the next Palestinian government following its election victory last month. The group's triumph has elicited a joint demand by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia that it renounce its threat to dismantle Israel or risk losing financial support for the Palestinian government.

Welch made clear that there is no room to wiggle free of that demand, such as by Hamas offering a truce to Israel.

"The burden here is on Hamas to take a decision," Welch said. "It is not on the United States, it is not on the Europeans, it is not on Israel."