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US Welcomes Palestinian Vote, Warns It Will Not Deal With Hamas

The United States Wednesday welcomed the Palestinian elections but reaffirmed it would not deal with the radical Islamic group Hamas, which could be propelled into the Palestinian government as a result of the vote. The international Quartet on the Middle East will discuss the election results next Monday in London.

Bush administration officials are making no specific threats about what will happen if Hamas becomes part of the Palestinian cabinet.

But at the same time, they are reiterating that the United States will have no dealings with Hamas, which the State Department has listed for years as a terrorist organization.

Both White House and State Department welcomed the fact that the Palestinian legislative elections drew a large turnout and were conducted in relative peace.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said he could not say what the U.S. approach would be to the next Palestinian government until its composition and policies had been announced.

At the same time though, he said the United States and its partners in the Middle East quartet - Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations - are already firmly on the record opposing the inclusion in the Palestinian government of any party that does not accept Israel's right to exist and renounce violence and terrorism.

He said the United States does not foresee its approach to Hamas changing, and he said it will be up to the Palestinians to deal with the fundamental contradiction posed by a group that he said wants to have one foot in politics and the other in terrorism.

You can't have armed militias running around in a democracy outside the rule of law, which is the situation that you have now," noted McCormack. "That of course needs to change. That is of course what is called for in the 'road map,' that is what the Quartet has very clearly stated. So again as for what the future Palestinian authority looks like, we'll see. But in terms of our views of the matter, we'll be guided by the principles that have been outlined in the Quartet statement as well as the road map and the statements from the secretary [of state].

The spokesman said the United States is prepared to work with a Palestinian government committed to achieving a two state solution to the Middle East conflict by peaceful means across the bargaining table, not at the point of a gun.

McCormack noted that Hamas campaigned for office on a platform of good governance and not on its record of violence.

However he said it does not necessarily follow that Hamas would undergo a peaceful transformation if it actually got into the business of governing, though he said the entire Palestinian political scene is in a period of transition.

The spokesman confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the other Quartet members, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana, will discuss the election and its aftermath in a meeting in London Monday.

Diplomats will be convening in the British capital for a donors conference on Afghanistan opening Tuesday.