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Powell: Hamas is an 'Enemy of Peace' - 2003-06-20

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Hamas is an "enemy of peace," and he has called for greater international pressure against it and other militant Palestinian groups. Mr. Powell was speaking after talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In some of the bluntest language heard in some time, Mr. Powell denounced the militant group for its involvement in terrorism.

"The enemy of peace has been Hamas, especially over the last two weeks," he said. "As long as they have a commitment to terror and violence and a desire to destroy the state of Israel, I think this is a problem we have to deal with in its entirety."

Mr. Powell said that was the message he was taking to the international community.

Hamas has claimed responsibility for many of the suicide bombings and attacks against Israelis in the past 32 months of violence.

For his part, Mr. Sharon said there will be no peace, as long as terror continues.

"As long as terror continues, as long as violence continues, as long as this terrible incitement continues, there will be no progress. There will be no peace with terror," he said.

After hearing Mr. Sharon's remarks, senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantizi was quoted by news agencies as saying such statements will not make the group stop its resistance to Israeli occupation. He also called Mr. Powell a slave to Zionists, a liar and a hypocrite.

Mr. Sharon says Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas must do more to crack down on the militant groups.

Mr. Powell meets Mr. Abbas later Friday.

The Palestinian prime minister has been trying to persuade Hamas, and other militant groups to suspend attacks against Israel. He says he prefers negotiating with the militants, rather than using force, for fear it could spark a civil war.

But even as Mr. Powell and Mr. Sharon were speaking, Israel radio reported that one Israeli was killed and three others wounded when the vehicle in which they were riding was shot at as they drove near the West Bank town of Ramallah.