U.S.: Aid Package to PA Depends on Funds Not Benefiting Hamas

State Dept. spokesman affirms stance after congressmen call on Rice to consider position on PA gov't.

The United States State Department said Monday full funding of a proposed $86 million in security assistance for the Palestinian authority hinges on whether U.S. officials receive assurances that none of the funds can benefit Hamas.

Spokesman Sean McCormack commented after four House Foreign Affairs Committee members, including chairman Tom Lantos, called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reconsider the plan in light of the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas to form a national unity government.

McCormack said the administration is asking the same questions as are the members of Congress about whether Hamas would benefit from the program.

"Our intention is to move forward with the program," McCormack said. "Whether or not that includes the full $86 million will depend upon the answers to the questions we have and obviously the answers to the questions that the Congress has."

The intention is to assist with the training of forces under the control of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"In calling for reconsideration of the plan, the House members said, This agreement has immensely complicated the search for peace."

They said they were deeply disappointed that Abbas had committed his Fatah party to forming a government with Hamas without insisting that the group recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept all previous Israeli-PLO agreements.