Meeting on Monday in London in the wake of Hamas' stunning victory in last week's Palestinian elections, the diplomatic Quartet on Middle East peace - which also includes the UN - pledged to keep money flowing into the interim caretaker administration of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

"We do believe that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] needs to be supported," Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, said, ensuring that funds will be available to pay for Palestinian police officers and civil servants.

But the Quartet said the Palestinians critical lifeline for foreign aid could be lost in the longer term unless Hamas - perpetrator of deadly human-bomb attacks on Israelis - abandons violence, recognises Israel and embraces the diplomatic "roap map" to peace.

Earlier on Monday, Hamas appealed to the European Union not to cut aid to a Palestinian government that might include the Islamist resistance group.

Plea for support

Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader, said in Gaza: "We call on you to understand the priorities of our Palestinian people at this stage and continue the spiritual and financial support in order to push the region towards stability rather than pressure and tension."

Haniya, who headed Hamas's list of candidates, also appealed to the Quartet to talk to the group without pre-conditions.

"We call on you to understand the priorities of our Palestinian people at this stage and continue the spiritual and financial support in order to push the region towards stability rather than pressure and tension"

Ismail Haniya,
Hamas leader

In Israel on Sunday, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said there was no way the European Union could provide direct financial support for a Palestinian government that included Hamas, as long as the group refused to give up violence and acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

Hamas, which has carried out nearly 60 bombings in Israel since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000, swept to victory over the long-dominant Fatah faction of Abbas in a parliamentary election on Wednesday.
   
Last year, the EU gave the Palestinian Authority $615 million, money vital for its survival. 
   
Before the meeting in London on Monday, Rice said she believed the UN, the EU, Russia and other powers involved in the Middle East were "on the same page", that funding must not go to Hamas and other groups that advocated destroying Israel.