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US: 'No Plot' for Hamas Ouster
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The United States and Israel were not plotting to destabilize a Hamas-led Palestinian government, the White House said on Tuesday, but urged the militant group to respect Israeli-Palestinian accords.

The New York Times reported that US and Israeli officials were discussing ways to isolate Hamas, which won an overwhelming victory in the Palestinian election, if it failed to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce violence.

"There's no plot," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "The issue that this goes to is the choice that Hamas has before it. If it wants to realize better relations with the international community, then Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel and disarm."

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack denied Washington was developing a strategy that differed from its public policy.

"The conversations that we are having with the Israeli government are the same conversations we are having with other members of the international community," he said.

McClellan told reporters that Palestinian officials had for years recognized Israel's right to exist and worked in negotiations toward peace.

"If Palestinians were to change that decade-old policy, then their relations with the international community will change as well," he said.

Hamas defeated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement in the January 25 election on a pledge to end corruption and continue armed struggle for statehood. It is pledged officially to the destruction of Israel which it says is built on occupied Arab land.

"The United States, which claims herself to be the mother of democracy, must respect the election results and the will of the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said.

New elections

The Times report said the goal of the campaign would be to ensure that newly elected Hamas officials failed and new elections were called.

The allies would seek to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections, making life so difficult for Palestinians that they would vote to return a reformed Fatah movement to office, it said.

The Jerusalem-datelined story cited unidentified Israeli officials and US diplomats.

Israeli officials also denied they were drafting a plan to force new elections.

"The strategy is to present the incoming leadership of the Palestinian Authority a clear choice: either they transform themselves into a legitimate political interlocutor ... or they face international isolation," said foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

The New York Times quoted officials as saying Hamas plans to build up its militias and increase violence and, unless it renounces violence, accepts Israel and accepts previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements, must be starved of power.

The strategy carries many risks, the officials conceded, saying Hamas would try to secure support from the larger Islamic world, including allies Syria and Iran.

Israel, which does not expect Hamas to meet its conditions, will cut off payments of US$50 million to US$55 million a month in taxes and customs duties and put that money in escrow.

In addition, some of the aid the Palestinians receive from the United States and European Union will be stopped or reduced, the officials told The Times. Further travel restrictions might also be imposed, including cutting Gaza off completely from the West Bank, the newspaper reported.

(Chinadaily.com via agencies February 15, 2006)

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