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Quartet warns Hamas government aid will be hit

Written by: Staff
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BRUSSELS, Mar 30 (Reuters) International peace mediators today said the new Hamas-led Palestinian government had failed to commit itself to peace and warned that aid would inevitably be affected.

The Quartet of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations ''noted with grave concern that the new government has not committed to the principles spelled out on January 30,'' a joint statement said, referring to demands that it recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace deals.

''There inevitably will be an effect on direct assistance to that government and its ministries,'' the statement said.

It added that humanitarian assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people should continue.

The statement came a day after the Hamas-led Palestinian government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was sworn in, and two days after an Israeli general election in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party, which has vowed to set Israel's borders unilaterally by 2010, won the most votes.

The new Palestinian government began work today, rebuffing the Quartet's demands. Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Meshaal, said the movement had not changed.

The statement did not mention the issue of contacts with the new government. The United States and European Commission officials have said they would only have contacts with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but Russia has held high-level talks with Hamas.

In its statement, ''the Quartet welcomed President Abbas' call for the new Palestinian government to commit to a platform of peace''.

The Quartet ''reiterated its commitment to the principles outlined in the (West Asia peace) Roadmap and previous statements, and reaffirmed its commitment to a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict leading to two democratic states living side by side in peace and security''.

The statement omitted previous warnings against ''unilateral actions'' which referred indirectly to Israeli settlement expansion, the West Bank security barrier and moves to restrict the movement of Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority depends on foreign aid. It already faces a financial crisis as Israel has halted monthly tax transfers of 50-55 million dollars.

The EU is the main donor to the PA, with 500 million euros (612 million dollars) given last year.

It decided last month to hand over 120 million euros (142 million dollars) in emergency aid, most of it through international organisations, but warned that further aid would depend on the new governement's respect of the Quartet's requirements.

REUTERS PR RAI2124

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