US launches int'l anti-Hamas campaign

State Department to ask Qatar to clarify the nature of donation to Palestinians.

hamas parliament 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas parliament 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Bush administration launched on Monday a campaign to reverse creeping assistance to the Hamas-led Palestinian government while endorsing help to the Palestinian people themselves. The campaign is directed initially at countries already primed to contribute to the Palestinian government. On Monday, oil-rich Qatar said it would contribute $50 million to help make up for a US and European cutoff. Russia, which had appeared to be in agreement with the United States, the European Union and Canada in denying aid to the government until Hamas renounces terrorism and accepts Israel existence, pledged unspecified, urgent aid last week. Iran said on Sunday it would contribute $50 million. Arab nations had promised to give the Palestinian Authority $55 million a month, but held back after Hamas' victory in Palestinian elections in January. Qatar said on Monday, however, that it wanted to help make up a shortfall caused by the US and European cutoff. With Hamas apparently revving up a campaign for funds in the Arab world and in Iran, the State Department said government officials who meet with a Hamas delegation should insist on a renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel. Spokesman Sean McCormack said American diplomats "would seek a little clarity" from Qatar "as to exactly what their intentions are, to whom they actually intend to give this money and under what circumstances." "The Palestinian people do have legitimate humanitarian needs,' he said. But, he added, assistance should be "channeled in such a way that it does not provide any material benefit or support to a Hamas-led government." While cutting off any direct US aid to the Palestinian government, the Bush administration intends to contribute about $600 million in the next few years to Palestinian humanitarian projects. Implying that if that is what Qatar intends to do there would be no US complaint, McCormack said, "We think that is not only right, but appropriate because the Palestinian people do have legitimate humanitarian needs." So, he said, the United States was seeking "clarification" from Qatar. At the same time, though, the spokesman said the known pledges amount only to two-thirds of one month's Palestinian Authority salaries. McCormack also urged Israel to consider "the plight of the Palestinian people" and consider providing them with assistance.