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US Denies Plot With Israel to Destabilize Hamas Government


The Bush administration says it is not having separate talks with Israel about how to deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian government. The New York Times reported Tuesday that U.S. and Israeli officials were discussing ways to undermine a prospective Hamas led Palestinian government and force new elections.

State Department officials say they are puzzled by the New York Times account, and insist there is no discreet or secret dialogue with Israel over how to confront a Palestinian government led by Hamas.

The New York Times account, which said the U.S. and Israel intention is to starve a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and force new elections, drew an unusually vigorous response from the Bush administration.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, in an impromptu talk with reporters, said contacts with Israel on the issue were no different that those being held with other U.S. diplomatic partners. He said all the parties want a Hamas administration to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous agreements Palestinians reached with Israel.

"There's no plan, there's no plot. The conversations that we are having with the Israeli government are the same conversations we're having with other members of the international community including the Quartet. And the context and the basis of those discussions is quite transparent: it's the Quartet statement and the principles outlined in that statement," said McCormack.

Spokesman McCormack said U.S. policy continues to be based on the statement the Quartet - the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations - made January 30 in London.

In that statement, the four parties said members of a future Palestinian government must be committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations including the Quartet's April 2003 road map to a Middle East peace accord.

The New York Times account also drew a response from Israeli Ambassador to Washington Danial Ayalon, who said there are no U.S.-Israeli discussions designed to bring down the Palestinian government, and no conspiracy to hurt the Palestinian people.

Spokesman McCormack said future international financial support for the Palestinian Authority depends on the platforms and policies that the next Palestinian government pursues.

He said if that government breaks with existing moderate policies, the entire international community will review its funding and that the United States' opposition to providing aid to a terrorist organization is very clear.

The United States has long listed Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization and its campaign of suicide bombing against Israel in recent years also killed a number of U.S. citizens.

This year's U.S. aid program for Palestinians totals more than $230 million, about a third of it for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, to which the United States has traditionally been the largest contribution.

Spokesman McCormack suggested under questioning that an aid cutback, if one occurred, would not be total. He said the international community recognizes that the Palestinians have certain humanitarian needs and that they would be considered on a case-by-case basis.