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'In Order for There to be Peace, Hamas Must be Dismantled,' says Bush - 2003-06-25

President Bush says there cannot be peace in the Middle East until Palestinian militant groups like Hamas are put out of business.

The president's initial response to the news of a possible cease-fire was one of skepticism. "I'll believe it when I see it," he said.

Mr. Bush said the true test for these militant groups is their ability to shut down their terrorist operations.

"In order for there to be peace, Hamas must be dismantled," added President Bush.

The president told reporters he raised the matter during talks at the White House with leaders of the European Union. He said he told them in private that strong steps must be taken to stop the flow of money to Hamas and its allies. Mr. Bush then repeated that demand in public.

"I urge the leaders in Europe and around the world to take swift, decisive action against terror groups such as Hamas, to cut off their funding and support as the United States has done," he said.

The Bush administration considers all of Hamas to be a terrorist organization, while the Europeans have in the past drawn a distinction between the group's military and political wings.

Still, there was plenty of talk of cooperation on the issue during the U.S.-EU summit at the White House. Both the United States and the European Union played a role in drafting the so-called "road map" to peace now under consideration in the region. The U.N. and Russia were also involved in putting together the plan.