Rice calls to give Olmert a boost

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday to reassure him that the US would stand firm regarding Hamas, a gesture seen as a sign of political support for his decision to transfer NIS 250 million to the Palestinian Authority. Olmert came under attack from both Labor and the Likud for transferring the customs and tax revenues, and one senior government official said that the US, understanding his delicate political situation, wanted to show its support. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, Rice called to "reiterate the US position on Hamas." The statement said she emphasized that the US was in close contact with the international community to ensure "there was no erosion in the international position on Hamas." This position is that Hamas must disarm and disavow terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept all previous agreements with Israel before the US or the EU will have any dealings with it. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni left for a three-day visit to the US where, in addition to meeting Rice on Wednesday, she is also expected to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II. Abdullah is currently on his own visit to the US. This would be Livni's second meeting with an Arab leader in a week, having met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last Wednesday. Diplomatic officials said that Hamas's victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections and Iran would be the main topics of discussion. Livni is also scheduled to visit New York and meet United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In addition to meeting Rice, Livni, on her first trip to the US since becoming foreign minister in mid-January, is also scheduled to meet National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.