JERUSALEM – Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Hamas, with support from Syria and Iran, is trying to "torpedo" peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.
Meeting reporters after having breakfast with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Cheney said, "It is clearly a difficult situation, in part, because I think it's true, there's evidence that, Hamas is supported by Iran and Syria and that they're doing everything they can to torpedo the peace process."
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the two men had a good meeting. "They discussed a range of issues, including the peace process, terrorism, and threats to regional security," he said.
Cheney said in his meeting Sunday with Palestinian leaders that they talked about efforts under way in Yemen to encourage reconciliation between moderate and militant Palestinians.
"My conclusion after talking about this with the Palestinians is that they have established some preconditions before they would ever consider a reconciliation, including a complete reversal of the Hamas takeover of Gaza."
Asked whether the U.S. supports the Yemeni mediation effort to bridge differences between Hamas and Fatah, a senior administration official said that the United States has made it clear that it will not support working with Hamas unless there is a fundamental change in the group's current role, which the U.S. describes as terrorist.
Israel has been conducting peace talks with President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah-led government in the West Bank, while simultaneously battling Hamas in Gaza. An Israeli official said a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas would mean the end of peace talks.
"The Fatah leadership has to make a choice," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "They can have a peace process and dialogue with Israel or a coalition with Hamas. But it's clear that you can't have them both."