US orders end to Hamas contacts
WASHINGTON: The United States says it has ended contacts between its diplomats in the Middle East and the militant Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas.
The decision comes at a crucial time when Washington is trying to get Arabs and Israel to resume peace talks suspended in December after Israel deported to Lebanon more than 400 Palestinians said to be allied to Hamas and other radical groups charged with inciting a wave of murders of Israelis.
A State Department spokesman, Mr Richard Boucher, said: ''In the past, given our interest in developments in the Islamic world and particularly in developments in political Islam, our embassies . . . have maintained a variety of contacts with people to discuss those kind of issues.'' Officials said the contacts took place largely in Amman, but also between American diplomats and Hamas-associated scholars and intellectuals in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Mr Boucher said the contacts had been going on for some time. But in the last week or so ''given the current situation, we have instructed our embassies not to continue those contacts''.
He was unable to give details on why the contacts were ended or to say if the US had been asked to act by Israel and/or Palestinian leaders involved in the peace talks.
But a US official who spoke anonymously said the contacts were severed because of ''the violence and the efforts of Hamas to destroy the peace process''.