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US Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) said Tuesday that he would not support funding for a Palestinian Authority that included Hamas, unless the terrorist group denounced violence and recognized Israel's right to exist.
"I don't support funding a terrorist organization as long as they remain a terrorist organization," said Kerry, who spoke briefly to the press in Jerusalem after meeting with Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA negotiator Saeb Erekat. Kerry is on a 12-day tour of the region that will include Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Jordan and Kuwait.
His statement falls in line with recent warnings from security sources in the American government that the US will cut funding to the PA unless the Hamas representatives likely to be chosen in next Wednesday's Palestinian Legislative Council elections stop terrorism. The US House of Representatives passed a resolution threatening to cut off future financial aid to the PA on similar grounds.
Kerry added that he didn't believe terrorist groups should participate in governments. Since he assumes that Hamas politicians would be elected into office, Kerry said, the real question is what happens the day after the elections.
"This is a fundamental crossroad" for the PA and Hamas, which have the opportunity to "set a new course" after the elections, said Kerry.
"You can't have it both ways. If you are going to be part of a government you can't blow up buses in Tel Aviv," said Kerry, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a former presidential candidate. "If you decide to participate in democracy then buy in fully to what goes with it, and that means recognizing Israel's right to exist and giving up violence," he added.
Kerry recalled seeing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on his last visit. "I cannot say enough how much our thoughts are with the prime minister and the people of Israel in this moment," he said.
Showing his support for Olmert, Kerry said that he has been impressed by the "grace and sensitivity" by which the acting prime minister has conducted affairs of state during Sharon's illness. "It's a credit to the people and to the strength of this democracy," he added.
Kerry spoke with both Olmert and Erekat about the possible implications of the election results, as well as the unrest in Gaza. They also discussed reform and solutions to corruption within the Palestinian Authority.