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US Condemns Hamas for Condoning Tel Aviv Suicide Attack

The United States is condemning officials of Hamas, which now runs the Palestinian Authority, for remarks condoning the suicide attack Monday in Tel Aviv. The White House said such an attitude will have a grave impact on relations between the Palestinian leadership and countries seeking Middle East peace.

The Bush administration is reacting angrily to the seeming defense of the Tel Aviv attack by officials of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, who framed the suicide bombing as a legitimate response to Israeli aggression.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the bombing at the Israeli food stand was a despicable act of terrorism for which no excuse or justification is possible.

McClellan contrasted the Hamas comments with those of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who denounced the bomb attack. He said defense of or sponsorship of terrorist acts by officials of the Palestinian cabinet will have "the gravest effects" on relations between the Hamas-run authority and all states seeking peace in the Middle East.

He further said a Palestinian government that encourages attacks on innocent people not only increases the level of violence against Israelis, but can only do great harm to the interests of the Palestinian people and ensure its own isolation.

The comments were echoed here by State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, who said the Hamas-led government had utterly failed in its first chance to show some statesmanship in the face of a terror attack:

"Given the opportunity, the first opportunity, to denounce an act of terror, to condemn an act of terror, Hamas has decided to condone it. That is, we are now seeing the true nature of this Hamas-led government," he said. "They would rather encourage 16-year-olds to go out, strap explosives to them, and go out and try to kill other 16-year-olds, other innocent civilians. That's the kind of government that you're dealing with."

The administration spokesmen reiterated that the United States will have no dealings with a government led by Hamas, a group long listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, and they urged all countries to demand that it abandon support for terrorism.

In a related development, State Department Spokesman McCormack said the United States is seeking clarification from officials of Qatar about reports the Gulf state will be providing $50 million to the Palestinian Authority.

He said U.S. officials want to hear officials of Qatar, a longtime regional ally, precisely who would receive the funding and under what circumstances.

In line with a January commitment with its partners in the Middle East Quartet, the United States has halted direct support for the Palestinian Authority and restructured its humanitarian aid program so that funding does not pass through the hands of Hamas-controlled Palestinian ministries.

The Quartet, which also includes Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, says the Hamas-led government should be denied aid until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel, and adheres to previous undertakings of the Palestinian Authority, including the Quartet's 2003 road map to Middle East peace.

Spokesman McCormack said even with $50 million from Qatar and a similar amount pledged by Iran, that would only provide the Palestinian Authority with enough money to meet two-thirds of its payroll commitments for a single month.