The U.S. government is attempting to maintain unity with its European and Arab allies over its warning to cut off financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas fails to renounce its anti-Israel position, the New York Times reported Friday.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to make a visit next week to the Middle East, aiming in part to ensure Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations do not make up the difference if the West cuts off its portion of the annual one-billion-U.S.-dollar outside assistance that has kept the Palestinian Authority afloat.
Washington has conveyed similar concerns over future turmoil to the Europeans, who fear tens of thousands of Palestinians, including armed security forces, could be thrown out of work if aid is cut off, the newspaper quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying.
The next step for the Bush administration, a senior State Department official said, is to "convince everyone that now that we've set the goal, we have to apply pressure and see it through. But we're going through a period of uncertainty and we're going to have to learn to live with it."
The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council is to be installed on Saturday in Ramallah, but U.S. and European officials say the decision on aid will not be made until an actual government is formed and its manifesto becomes clear. That could be weeks or months away, some officials say.
A call for Hamas to renounce its previous position came last month from the United States and its partners in the so-called Quartet - Russia, the United Nations and the European Union - which has overseen Middle East negotiations since 2002.
But there was no explicit vow in their statement to cut off aid, only a suggestion that individual donors would "review" their assistance if Hamas did not renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept existing agreements with its neighbor, including the pledge to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state living at the peace with Israel.