'Quartet' Meets on Hamas-Led Palestinian Government

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States will cut off aid to a Palestinian government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas unless they renounce violence. Rice is in London to talk about the future of the Mideast peace process with the so-called "quartet" group made up of the United States, Russia, the U.N. and the European Union. Alex Chadwick discusses the talks with John Daniszewski, London bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in London for talks about what to do about the Palestinian election victory of Hamas, the militant Islamic party. Secretary Rice repeated the Bush administration's pledge that the U.S. will not aid any Palestinian government that is led by Hamas, not until the group renounces violence and recognizes the state of Israel, at least.

Joining us from London is John Daniszewski. He's London bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times. John, Dr. Rice is there meeting with the quartet group that includes the U.S., the U.N., the European Union, and Russia, who all get together to talk about Israel and the Middle East peace process. What are they saying now?

Mr. JOHN DANISZEWSKI (London Bureau Chief, The Los Angeles Times): Well, before she went into that meeting with the quartet, she was giving a news conference here in London with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai. And she was asked about Hamas. And she said, basically, that she thinks the U.S. and the Europeans are on the same page, that they don't want to give any funding to a Hamas government unless they renounce violence and terrorism.

CHADWICK: The secretary is quoted in this morning's New York Times as being critical of her own staff, and, by implication, herself as well, for having missed the victory of Hamas, for having misunderstood what was happening in the Palestinian election.

Mr. DANISZEWSKI: Yes, that was quite a frank disclosure. And you get the feeling, too, among the Europeans and the United States that this is something they hadn't exactly anticipated. And now they're scrambling to come up with what's the right answer.

CHADWICK: Well, what do they have to offer? I mean, money, for one, presumably, but they seem to be saying, look, we're not going to give you any money, any aid. And the Palestinian authority has been getting about a billion dollars a year from these sources. So, if they cut off that aid, then what have they got?

Mr. DANISZEWSKI: It's a problem, because chaos would likely ensue in those Palestinian territories if the teachers and the police are not being paid. And then there would be a big incentive for Hamas to look for other friends and funders from abroad. I'm not sure if mechanically they can get money in from the gulf or Iran or so forth. But, clearly, those funds that go to supply the Palestinian government is what it needs to continue to exist and have any kind of stability in those territories.

CHADWICK: Is there a representative of Hamas at this meeting, someone speaking for the Palestinians?

Mr. DANISZEWSKI: No. They've taken the line that they will not deal with Hamas until it shows some change of policy. And I think, right now, what they're hoping is that, for this interim period when everything is still unclear, that they would deal with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, instead.

CHADWICK: Well, is there a consensus among the four parties to the talks, do you know?

Mr. DANISZEWSKI: Well, I think, we don't know yet if there is a consensus. I think they really need to iron this out. But, in general, this morning in Brussels, the E.U. foreign ministers were meeting. And they were voicing sentiments very similar to what Condoleezza Rice has been saying, that they need, from the Palestinian, a renunciation of violence, and a recognition of Israel in order to proceed.

So, I think the point of Condoleezza Rice's visit, or at least on this topic, is to try to keep that line as taut and united as possible.

CHADWICK: John Daniszewski, London bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times. Thank you, John.

Mr. DANISZEWSKI: Thank you.

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