A day after Hamas swept to an upset victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, former US President Jimmy Carter on Thursday said that Wednesday's voting had been orderly and fair.
"The elections were completely honest, completely fair, completely safe and without violence," the former president said.
Carter, who led an 85-member international observer team from around the world organized by the 'National Democratic Institute' in partnership with 'The Carter Center,' urged the international community to directly or indirectly fund the new Palestinian Government even though it will be led by an internationally-declared foreign terror organization.
"The Palestinian Government is destitute, and in desperate financial straits. I hope that support for the new government will be forthcoming," Carter said at a Jerusalem press conference.
He added that if international law barred donor countries from directly funding a Hamas-led government than the US and the EU should bypass the Palestinian Authority and provide the "much-needed" money to the Palestinians via non-governmental channels such as UN agencies.
"Regardless of the government, I would hope that potential donors find alternative means to be generous to the Palestinian people [even] if the donor decides to bypass the Palestinian government completely," Carter said, stressing that his main concern was to avert the "suffering" of the Palestinian people, which he said could lead to a new cycle of violence.
He noted that the heavily funded Palestinian Government would run out of money at the end of next month.
Hamas, the largest and most powerful of the Palestinian terror organizations, which advocates Israel's destruction, has carried out scores of bombings over the last five years of Palestinian violence, attacks which have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.
Earlier Thursday, Israeli statesman Shimon Peres had opined in a radio interview that international aid to a Hamas-led government would likely be terminated.
The former Democratic president's comments came as US President Bush said that Hamas cannot be a partner for Middle East peacemaking without renouncing violence, reiterating that the United States will not deal with Palestinian leaders who do not recognize Israel's right to exist.
Carter, who has long supported the participation of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, voiced the hope that the Islamic terror group would act "responsibly" now that it had won the elections.
"My hope is that as Hamas assumes a major role in the next government, whatever that might be, it will take a position on international standards of responsibility," he said at the news conference, held at an east Jerusalem hotel.
The 85-member election observers team, which was led by Carter, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Blidt former Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, included political and civic leaders from 22 countries around the world.
"It is now up to the elected leaders and representatives to construct genuinely democratic institutions and processes that will bring the peace and prosperity that the Palestinian people deserve, within a free and independent state," the group said in a preliminary report on the parliamentary elections issued Thursday.
"It is universally accepted that democratic elections and democratic governance are about employing peaceful means to achieve political goals," the report stated.