However, the administration will maintain contact with the Palestinian Authority's representative in Washington, Afief Safieh, because "he does not report to the foreign ministry",  Adam Ereli, deputy State Department spokesman, told reporters on Friday.

Mahmud Zahar, the new Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, is a Hamas member.

"We've advised our mission in Jerusalem, as well as other missions around the world that ... there should be no contact between US government officials and PA (Palestinian Autority) officials who are under the authority of the prime minister or any other minister in the Hamas-led government. This includes working-level officials in those ministries," said Ereli.

"If they're working in a Hamas-led ministry, no matter what their affiliation is, we're not going to have contact with them," he said.

Communicating with Abbas

"If they're working in a Hamas-led ministry, no matter what their affiliation is, we're not going to have contact with them"

Adam Ereli,
US State Department deputy spokesman

Ereli, however, said US diplomats can remain in contact with Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, and "the officials directly under the Palestinian Authority.

"We will work with individuals and organisations who are not affiliated with Hamas," he said. "There are a lot of people we can speak to now."

Ereli noted that David Welch, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who is now in the region, had met with Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and was expected to meet with Abbas in the coming days.

The new instructions had been expected since Washington considers Hamas a terrorist organisation, and rules forbid US officials entering in contact with members of a terrorist group.