Bush Threatens Aid Cuts for Hamas-led Palestinian Gov't

President Bush reiterated Wednesday that the United States would provide no aid to a Palestinian government headed by Hamas unless the group changes its extremist policies toward Israel, as the new government formally took power in the Palestinian territories.

"We support the election process, we support democracy, but that doesn't mean we have to support governments that get elected as a result of democracy," Bush said in remarks to Freedom House, an independent organization that promotes democracy worldwide.

"Now, the Palestinians must make a choice as to whether or not it makes sense for them to have a government that says they want to destroy their neighbor," Bush said.

The United States, the European Union and other countries, including Canada on Wednesday, have cut off aid to the Palestinian government until Hamas changes its policies.

As a condition of dealing with Hamas, the U.S. and its allies want it to agree to the recognition of Israel, renunciation of terrorism and acceptance of international commitments made by the Palestinian Authority.

The United States regards Hamas as a terrorist organization and, by law, is forbidden to deal with such groups.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah Party opposes Hamas, officially swore in the 24-member Hamas Cabinet on Wednesday.

Bush restated that the U.S. will continue giving aid directly to the Palestinian people. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the administration plans to increase humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and was trying to determine how best to do that.

McCormack also said U.S. diplomats considering contacts with Palestinian officials should clarify beforehand whether they have links to Hamas. He said a notice was sent to U.S. diplomats outlining procedures they should take if questions arise about the affiliations of Palestinian officials.

"We will not have contact with members of Hamas, no matter what title they may have," McCormack said.