Erekat: Welch promised to continue aid

Abbas to UK TV: I will resign if Hamas doesn't recognize Israel, stop terror.

bush speaks 298 (photo credit: AP)
bush speaks 298
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and US envoy David Welch in Ramallah Saturday, said after the meeting that Welch promised him that the US would not cut off financial aid to the PA, Israel Radio reported. On Friday, US President George W. Bush said Friday that Hamas leaders have "a choice to make," and that "if [Hamas] wants the help of America and the international community to build a prosperous, independent Palestinian state, they must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace." Abbas said Friday night in an interview to the British television channel ITV-1, which will be aired Sunday, that he urged Israel and other nations not to "push Hamas into a corner." Abbas also declared that he would resign if Hamas refused to recognize Israel and continued its terrorist activity. "If I can't do my job the way I see fit, I'll resign," Abbas declared. Abbas said that he believed that the planned visit to Russia by a number of Hamas leaders could "help," and described Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, whom he recently charged with forming a new cabinet, as a "flexible diplomat." Bush on Friday called on Hamas to choose whether it becomes a political organization or remains a terror group. "The international community must continue to make clear to Hamas that democratically elected leaders cannot have one foot in the camp of democracy and one foot in the camp of terror," Bush said in an address to the American Legion veterans' group in Washington DC. "The leaders of Hamas have a choice to make," Bush continued. The EU, meanwhile, is expected to approve the release of tens of millions of dollars next week to help Abbas' caretaker administration, diplomats said Friday, but will postpone a decision on further aid after Hamas takes power. Options the bloc's foreign ministers are considering include $48 million in new aid to help run utilities such as power supply and waste collection, and authorizing the World Bank to unblock around $60 million to pay salaries of Palestinian Authority employees. The money is designed to keep the Palestinian Authority afloat after Israel's decision to withhold $50 million a month in tax funds following Hamas' election victory. "The concept is to be able to help the Palestinian people, to be able to help the Palestinian Authority during this transition period," said EU spokeswoman Cristina Gallach, who declined to give details of what the ministers may decide Monday. EU officials said there would be no decision at Monday's meeting on funding to the Palestinians after a Hamas government takes power. "Later on we will evaluate what is the government doing, what the composition of the government is," Gallach said. "What we want is to help as much as possible the Palestinian president, the key interlocutor and somebody we have dealt with for a long time." Switching the flow of money away from the government to Abbas' office would reverse the position taken by the EU when Yasser Arafat headed the Palestinian Authority and the bloc preferred to use its funding to strengthen the government. Some European officials are wary of such a move because it could alienate Palestinians who voted overwhelming for Hamas against Abbas' Fatah movement. The EU has concurred with America's stance that funding a Hamas government will depend on it recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting the internationally backed peace process. The Quartet group of Middle East peacemakers - the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the EU - agreed this week to support the interim government until Hamas takes over. "We will continue to support the Palestinian Authority until the new government is formed and we have tried to find the necessary resources to do that," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after a telephone conference call that included UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lvrov.