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US Says Hamas Itself to Blame for Palestinian Financial Crisis


The Bush administration said Wednesday the Hamas-led Palestinian government has only itself to blame for the financial crisis it finds itself in. The comments follow charges from Hamas that the United States is disrupting the delivery of aid to the Palestinian Authority pledged by the Arab League and others.

The State Department is accusing Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of trying to shift the blame to others for a crisis the Hamas-led government brought on itself by refusing to accept peace-making terms endorsed by its predecessor.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack delivered a sharp rejoinder to an assertion by Mr. Haniyeh that the United States was blocking delivery of money pledged by the Arab League and others to meet the payroll for 165,000 public sector Palestinian workers.

McCormack accused Mr. Haniyeh and his colleagues of a concerted effort to try to blame someone else for a financial predicament he said resulted from their departure from the Palestinian Authority's past role as a positive player in efforts for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

"The difficulties that the Palestinian Hamas-led government might be experiencing now are wholly of their own making," said Sean McCormack. "They are going to want to blame others for that. But the Palestinian people need to understand that it is, at this moment, the Hamas-led government that is the single biggest obstacle to their realizing a two-state solution. They are the ones who are standing in the way of that, nobody else."

The United States and the European Union among others have halted direct aid to the Palestinian Authority after the Hamas-led administration spurned a call from the international Middle East "Quartet" that it accept Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism, and accept previous Palestinian commitments, including endorsement of the Quartet's 2003 road map to peace.

Arab League member states and other Islamic countries, including Iran, have pledged funds to help make up the shortfall. But Mr. Haniyeh said delivery of those funds has been blocked by what he termed an economic siege by the United States and European allies.

Arab League officials have cited problems in getting commercial banks to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority because of fears of sanctions by the United States, which lists Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Spokesman McCormack said the United States has no problem with legitimate commerce between private businesses and entities in the Palestinian areas, though he said firms doing business with Palestinians would have to comply with whatever licensing requirements might apply.

McCormack said the reason the Palestinians may be having problems is because private firms are "making their own decisions" about the risk of doing business in the Palestinian areas, where he said "you have a government led by a terrorist organization."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and colleagues from the other Quartet members - Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - are expected to discuss the financial situation in the West Bank and Gaza and related issues next Tuesday in a ministerial-level meeting of the informal grouping in New York.

Some EU countries have suggested channeling money for Palestinian civil servants through the office of moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but the United States has shown no interest in the idea.

The Bush administration says it will increase U.S. humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, while restructuring the program to ensure that no U.S. money goes through Hamas-controlled ministries.

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