US President Bush says Hamas
should be dealt with "harshly"

From his vacation compound in Maine, Bush said that peace in the region could only be achieved through harsh dealings with Hamas.

“It is clear that the free world, those who love freedom and peace, must deal harshly with Hamas and the killers.”

The president also appealed to other countries to take part in a campaign to place economic pressure on Palestinian organisations.

“For those of us who are interested in moving the process forward, we must combine our efforts to cut off all money, support, for anybody who tries to sabotage the peace process,” Bush said.

UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, reiterated Bush’s comments on Monday stating, “Hamas is literally trying to blow this process to pieces.”

“We are taking firm action in the United Kingdom against Hamas, and now I believe is the time for the whole of the international community including the European Union to take action against a  group which has made very clear that it has no interest whatever in being a partner for peace,” he said.

No new money for PA

The Palestinian Prime Minister 
is under pressure to reign in
"extremist" groups

President Bush sidestepped questions about whether the United States would provide money, or arms to help Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas set up a security force that can deal with "extremists".

But Palestinian Security Minister, Mohammed Dahlan, told European Union diplomats that the Palestinian Authority (PA) needs $400 million to rebuild its shattered security forces.

Meeting in the West Bank town of Jericho, Dahlan spoke with diplomats from Germany, Sweden, France and Spain.

He stressed the urgent need for funds if the PA is to have any chance to implement the necessary control that is expected of it from the US and Israel.

Palestinian security forces were devastated by the Israeli army during the ongoing uprising against Israeli occupation.


Australian action 

Australia announced on Monday that it was putting the Al Aqsa Foundation on its list of terror groups, thereby freezing their assets.

The foundation has been described as a key fund-raiser for Hamas.

Australia’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer said that “as a consequence of this listing it is now a criminal offence for persons who hold assets that are owned or controlled by Al Aqsa Foundation to use or deal with those assets.”

It also becomes a criminal offence punishable with up to five years imprisonment to make assets available to the group. It is unclear whether the foundation has any assets in Australia.

Similar measures against the group have been taken by Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.