Members of the Quartet - the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia - meet in London on Monday to discuss whether isolating Hamas politically and financially is the best policy after the Palestinian resistance group's surprise victory in last week's parliamentary elections.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, in London for the meeting, said while the US would fulfil its current aid commitments to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, Washington could not fund Hamas in government.

Rice said: "We are going to have extensive discussions in the Quartet about the way forward. But the United States is not prepared to fund an organisation that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations under the road map to which everyone is committed."

On the same page

Rice said she believed Quartet members and many others would not prop up Hamas with the funds it needs when it takes over the Palestinian Authority.

She said: "I have seen nothing to suggest that people are not on the same page."

Merkel (L) is on her first official
visit to Jerusalem

The European Union also cannot fund a Hamas-run Palestinian Authority if it did not renounce violence and recognise Israel, said Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

On Sunday, soon after her arrival in Jerusalem at the start of her first official visit to the region, Merkel said: "Such a Palestinian Authority cannot be directly supported by money from the EU."

Last year the EU gave the Palestinian Authority 500 million ($615 million), money vital for its survival.

The US, which has given more than $1.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians since 1993, has begun a full review of its assistance programmes to the Palestinians since Hamas swept the polls last week.

For 2006, the US had budgeted $234 million in assistance to the Palestinians.

Alternative funding

Hamas has rejected as "blackmail" Western demands that it renounce violence against Israel or risk losing aid. It also suggested it could look for alternative sources of funding in the Arab world and beyond.

"They need the money. This is not the time to get weak and let Hamas dictate terms"

Ned Walker,
Former US ambassador

One risk of completing cutting off funds to a Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories is that Iran and Syria might fill the gap.

Rice scoffed at suggestions these countries could fill the gap, saying Hamas risked losing money from financial institutions, Asia, Europe and elsewhere. "This is a pretty big gap," she said. 

Ned Walker, the former US ambassador to Israel and to Egypt, said Rice would try her best to convince all members of the Quartet that the time had come to draw the line on Hamas.

Walker told Reuters: "They need the money. This is not the time to get weak and let Hamas dictate terms."