WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday as his coalition government crumbled at the hands of the rival Hamas faction.
"President Abbas exercised his lawful authority as leader of the Palestinian people," Rice told reporters after meeting with foreign ministers from Latvia and Lithuania. "He was elected in 2005 by a large margin. We fully support him in his effort to end this crisis and bring peace to the Palestinian people. "
Rice pledged U.S. support for moderates working for peace with Israel after the Palestinian leader declared a state of emergency in response to Hamas’ movement in Gaza.
"Just because we have these challenges does not mean we give up on the Palestinian people. That is not what President Bush says, not what Secretary Rice is going to do," said Sean McCormack, State Department spokesman.
Rice spoke to Abbas by telephone after the leader declared a state of emergency, fired Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, dismantled the Hamas-Fatah coalition and announced that he would form a new government.
"Secretary Rice is going to make it very clear that we continue to support those forces in moderation, those who want to bring peace to the region," McCormack said.
McCormack said Hamas' attempt to take over in Gaza and disrupt the Hamas-Fatah coalition government is a "clear attempt by these forces of violent extremism" to disrupt the debate about which direction the Palestinians are going to take.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.