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SHARON & RICE CLASH OVER HAMAS

PM Sharon: 'We Will Not Help Hamas Which Murder Jews, Even If They Participate In Palestinian Elections'

Secretary of State Rice: 'After Elections It Will Be Easier To Disarm Hamas By Pressure From Entire International Community'

PM Sharon | Secretary of State Rice

Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have differed over the participation of the Hamas terror organization in the Palestinian elections set for January. At the PM's office in Jerusalem, Sharon said Israel will not interfere in the Palestinian elections but neither will it coordinate with the Palestinians if Hamas is allowed to run. Secretary Rice contended that the experience in northern Ireland and Angola had proved that it would be easier to force Hamas to disarm after the elections due to international pressure.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Israel rejects an American request to allow Hamas to run in the Palestinian elections this January. Sharon said: 'We will not help those who murder Jews even if they participate in the elections. Nowhere in the world would Hamas be permitted to participate.' Sharon went on to say the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinians ruled out Hamas. Only if Hamas disarms and revokes its covenant calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, would Israel assist in the Palestinian elections and accept Hamas participation. Moreover, the Prime Minister argued that if Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas does not combat terrorism now, he would be less likely to do so after the elections. Sharon's bottom line was that although he fully supported the democratization effort of President Bush, Israel would not assist Hamas. Israel would not interfere in the Palestinian elections but would not coordinate on them and would not allow Hamas members to either work or move about other than they do today.

Secretary Rice said while the U.S. would never ask Israel to do anything that might harm her security, it was hard to visualize how otherwise the situation could be moved along. She agreed that although Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was not doing what was expected of him, he was better than Yasser Arafat and certainly better than the alternative. She contended that after the Palestinian elections it would be easier to compel Hamas to disarm because the pressure would come from the entire international community. Rice said this had been the experience in northern Ireland and Angola. The secretary also respected the Israeli position adding that if Mahmoud Abbas did not disarm Hamas, he would lose both American and international support. In addition, Washington would never hold contacts with Hamas and Islamic Jihad even if they are in the Palestinian administration saying the U.S. would not countenance a situation in which armed terror organizations participate in the Palestinian administration.

David Essing

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