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US condemns suicide bombing in Tel Aviv

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WASHINGTON, Apr 17 (Reuters) The United States warned the new Hamas government today that any sponsorship of terrorism by Palestinian officials would further isolate them, after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed at least nine people in Tel Aviv.

In condemning the bombing that also wounded 60 people outside a restaurant in the seaside city, the White House told the Palestinian Authority it was responsible for preventing such attacks.

The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Israeli government said it held the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority responsible. Hamas took control of the Authority three weeks ago after winning elections in January.

A spokesman for Hamas, which is officially committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, called the bombing ''a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes against our people.'' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the bombing showed the ''true nature'' of a Hamas-led government, which he said encouraged violence by condoning the attack.

''They would rather encourage 16-year-olds to go out, strap explosives to them and go out and try to kill other 16-year-olds, other innocent civilians. That's the kind of government that you're dealing with,'' McCormack said.

The White House also had strong words for Hamas.

''Defense or sponsorship of terrorist acts by officials of the Palestinian cabinet will have the gravest effects on relations between the Palestinian Authority and all states seeking peace in the Middle East,'' spokesman Scott McClellan said.

A Palestinian government that encouraged or tolerated terrorism would harm Palestinian interests and ''ensure its own further isolation,'' he said.

''We reiterate that the United States will have no contact with such a government and we call upon all states to demand that it abandon its support for terror,'' McClellan said.

REUTERS PDS PM0139

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