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Rice Says No Direct U.S. Funding Now to Hamas
Humanitarian aid to Palestinians to continue, she says
By Ralph Dannheisser


February 20, 2006
Monday AM

Washington - The United States cannot and will not give direct financial assistance to a Hamas-led government so long as it is committed to terror and the destruction of Israel, but at the same time will not abandon Palestinians in desperate need of help, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.

Rice made the comments in a roundtable discussion with journalists from Arab states February 17, just days ahead of her planned visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.




While a Palestinian government "that is not committed to peace and the international consensus" simply will not receive the sort of direct fund transfers that have been given to the Palestinian Authority, Rice raised the prospect of continued humanitarian aid through other mechanisms.

She cited "programs in support of refugee policies that the U.N. runs" and "policies that relate to food assistance through the World Food Programme," as well as other projects carried out through nongovernmental organizations.

"The United States of America is not going to stop giving money for the immunization of Palestinian children," Rice pledged. "It would be against our values to do that. So, for the most vulnerable and innocent populations, you know, we will find a way to respond to those humanitarian needs."

But, she said again, "assistance that might help a government that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, that's just not going to happen."

Rice stressed the U.S. view that, by "making the right choice" in shifting its policies, Hamas could pave the way for peace and prosperity in the region. "You can't have one foot in violence and terrorism and another foot in the political process," she said.

"Nothing would be better than to have Hamas make the right choice, because if you had all of the entities of the Palestinian people united in the renunciation of violence, disarming of militias, the acceptance of Israel's right to exist, I believe you could move the peace process along really very rapidly" toward the two-state solution the United States supports, she said.

During her upcoming trip to the region, Rice said, she will urge "those who are committed to aninternational consensus behind the roadmap and behind the peace process (to) be demanding of any Palestinian entity that it also be committed to the peace process and to the roadmap."

Rice said she was "pleased for the Palestinian people that they finally got an opportunity to express themselves in free and open elections."

And she stressed that concern over the implications of the Hamas victory must not slacken the world community's drive for democratic development throughout the Middle East.

"The right approach is to continue to encourage reform and democracy and openness, to work to establish parties that are moderate in their views, to work to establish civil society, to work to establish the institutions, to say to any who have been elected in these processes and comes from the extremes, 'You now have a(n) obligation, however, a responsibility, to work for the aspirations of your people,'" Rice said.

"And your people, as far as we can see, don't want to turn their children into suicide bombers. They don't want to spend their lives trying to destroy Israel and therefore, living in circumstances as the Palestinians do," she added.

Other discussion on her Middle East visits will involve Iran's nuclear ambitions, Rice said, and she will carry the message that "everyone should tell the Iranians" that the only way to avoid international isolation is to "accept a civil nuclear path that does not have enrichment and reprocessing" capable of enabling weapons development.

Also, she said, "I want to talk to people about Iraq, where we're soon going to have the formation of a new government and where I would hope that Iraq's neighbors are ready now to support Iraq as it moves toward the establishment of a permanent government."

"The Iraqis are going to need the support of their neighbors," Rice said.


On the Web:

Transcript of media roundtable with Arab Print Journalists

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