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Bush: Hamas Must Renounce Violence

President Bush says the responsibilities of leading a Palestinian government should moderate extremist views within Hamas. Mr. Bush again said Washington will not support that government unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel.

As political leaders in Hamas work to form a new Palestinian administration, President Bush says he believes the responsibilities of governing will have a moderating effect on those who assume power in free elections.

"It's easier to be a martyr than a mayor or a Cabinet minister," said Mr. Bush. "When you are responsible for building roads and bridges and power stations and educating people and providing health, you are less likely to blow up health clinics and schools and bridges."

President Bush says Hamas campaigned on a platform of fighting corruption and improving social services, and that is how they will be judged by voters. If they do not deliver on those promises, Mr. Bush says, they will be voted out.

The United States still considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and is refusing to back a Hamas government unless they renounce violence.

"The leaders of Hamas have a choice to make," he added. "If they want the help of America and the international community to build a prosperous, independent Palestinian state, they must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace."

Following the Hamas victory at the polls, President Bush says, some people criticized his policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East as backfiring and destabilizing the region.

He says such criticism is based on what he says is the false assumption that the Middle East was a bastion of civility before Washington came in and disturbed the status quo.

"The status quo in the Middle East was dangerous and unacceptable, and our security demanded that we change it," he explained.

President Bush says that status quo led to the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

He says radical extremism flourishes in societies where people cannot freely express their views, and it will take time to build moderate political parties in the Middle East.

"It should come as no surprise that, after 60 years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East, civil society in that region is not strong, and those with the most extreme views are the most organized," he said.

President Bush says free elections cannot wait for perfect political conditions, and are in themselves instruments for change, strengthening forces of freedom by allowing people to organize and express their views.