Bush: no change in US policy on Hamas

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The Independent Online

George Bush said today that Hamas cannot be partner for Middle East peacemaking without renouncing violence, and he reiterated that the United States will not deal with Palestinian leaders who do not recognise Israel's right to exist.

The US President urged Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to remain in office after yesterday's stunning Hamas victory over Abbas' Fatah faction in Palestinian elections.

"If your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner in peace, and we're interested in peace," Bush told reporters at a news conference.

Bush called the election results a "wake-up call" to the old guard Palestinian leadership, many of whom are holdovers from the days of Yasser Arafat.

The Hamas victory "reminds me about the power of democracy."

"You see, when you give people the vote, give them the chance to express themselves at the polls and they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know."

In London, Tony Blair said the time hadcome for Hamas to turn its back on violence for democracy following its success in the Palestinian elections.

The Prime Minister said: "Of course, we recognise the mandate for Hamas because the people have spoken in a particular way in the Palestinian Authority.

"But I think it is also important for Hamas to understand that there comes a point, and that point is now following that strong showing, where they have to decide between a path of democracy or a path of violence.

"The only way we will ever get to a solution that is good for the Palestinian people is based on democracy and peaceful coexistence between the state of Israel and an independent Palestinian state."

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