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In the first meeting between senior Israeli and American officials since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stressed the need for the international community not to waver in regard to the terrorist organization and not to agree to anything less then full recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and dismantling the terror organizations.
Any Palestinian Authority led by Hamas would be a "terrorist entity" that should be dealt with harshly by the world, Livni said Wednesday.
"The international community has its own sanctions and measures when it comes to an entity which transfers into a terror entity," she said at a joint press conference with Rice.
She warned against any "combinations" in which Hamas would appoint officials who are not involved in terror to the PA cabinet or any attempt to distinguish between Hamas's military arm and its political arm.
"From our point of view, this is impossible. Our demands from Hamas are preconditions," Livni told Israeli reporters following her meeting with Rice.
Rice sent a strong message of support to Israel, and made it clear that "there simply has to be a recognition of the State of Israel's right to exist. It simply has to be. Israel is a member of the United Nations. It cannot be that you have a government that does not accept even its right to exist."
Livni said she was pleased with the US reaction to the PLC elections and that "the US, as a leader of the free world, stands wholeheartedly behind the demands from Hamas."
The meeting lasted an hour and was followed by meetings between Livni and Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephan Hadley and members of Congress.
While Rice voiced strong support for Israel's approach to a possible Hamas government, she did not endorse its plans for further unilateral steps in the West Bank. When asked by reporters about plans by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and by other members of Kadima to take further unilateral steps to set the country's border, Rice said that the US has always preferred bilateral negotiations over unilateral steps.
"No one should try and unilaterally predetermine the outcome of a final-status agreement. That's to be done at final status," she said.
Livni said later that Israel also prefers negotiated agreements, but she stressed that in the past the US eventually backed the Gaza Strip withdrawal, after it arrived at the conclusion that there was no partner for negotiations.
Rice and Livni also discussed the international community's reaction to Iran's nuclear ambitions, and Rice said that there is a worldwide agreement that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
"They have no alternative course but to accept the just demands of the international community that any peaceful civil nuclear energy programs would be ones that do not have proliferation risk, meaning that there would not be enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil," she said.
Rice did not join the criticism of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Israel's targeted killings. Though she pointed out that all actions should be viewed "with a mind to the consequences the day after," she stressed Israel's right to protect itself and its citizens.
Livni was then scheduled to fly to New York, where she would meet with UN Sec.-Gen. Kofi Annan, and with Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Gillerman.
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