A senior US diplomat says the United States will continue to give humanitarian aid to ease the plight of the Palestinians despite Hamas's victory in elections.
David Welch, the US assistant secretary of state, said after meeting Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Ram Allah on Saturday that the aid payments to ease the hardship of the Palestinians would be made via humanitarian organisations working in the region.
Welch said: "The United States has long been a supporter of the Palestinian people, through a substantial contribution of our foreign assistance funds... We continue to be devoted to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and it shall remain so.
"It is our belief that it is important for the people in the Palestinian territories ... to have a good life in safety and security with economic wellbeing."
Earlier in Washington, George Bush, the US president, urged the international community to make clear to Hamas that it must recognise Israel's right to exist or else the Palestinian Authority will be denied direct aid.
Bush told US military veterans: "The world is waiting to see what choice Hamas makes."
Hamas's surprise 25 January parliamentary election win handed Abbas's long-dominant Fatah faction a crushing defeat and has dented US hopes of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.
Bush's comments followed a Middle East tour by Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, in which she faced resistance from Arab allies to withholding funding from a Palestinian government led by Hamas, a group Washington lists as a terrorist organisation.
Saeb Erikat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said that Abbas had called on the US administration to respect the Palestinian people's democratic choice.
The US has led a faltering campaign to isolate Hamas since its election victory. But Hamas has so far not been swayed, saying Western threats to cut off aid amount to blackmail and alternative sources of funding can be found.
The Palestinian Authority is dependent on foreign aid and on tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel to pay its 140,000 employees and keep its ministries and institutions functioning.
Washington has won commitments from major powers such as the European Union and Russia to demand that Hamas renounce violence and recognise Israel.
"The world is waiting to see what choice Hamas makes"
But Moscow and others have agreed to meet Hamas leaders and few countries have pledged to end assistance to the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority.
Israel has decided to stop handing over the tax revenues, worth between $50-$55 million a month.
Welch said he told Abbas in their meeting that the United States would continue to support him.
The Palestinian president has so far been unable to persuade Hamas to openly declare an end to its armed struggle against Israeli occupation.
Welch said: "I told him that our support for him and his leadership at this critical time facing the Palestinian people [will continue]."
Hamas has masterminded nearly 60 bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising against the occupation began in 2000, but has largely adhered to a truce declared last March.