WASHINGTON — Palestinian Hamas militants are serving as the "proxy warriors" for an Iran bent on acquiring an atomic bomb and destroying Israel, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said here Tuesday.
In a speech to American Jews in Washington, Rice promoted the US policy of isolating Hamas which she said refused to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and respect all previous Palestinian agreements with Israel.
"But perhaps of deepest concern, the leaders of Hamas are increasingly serving as the proxy warriors of an Iranian regime that is destabilizing the region, seeking a nuclear capability and proclaiming its desire to destroy Israel," Rice told the American Jewish Committee.
"How can any government negotiate with a group that sees every agreement, every choice not as a compromise to advance peace, but as a tactic to later advance war?" she asked.
"No, the only responsible policy is to isolate Hamas and defend against its threats until Hamas makes the choice that supports peace," Rice said.
She called for international support for president Mahmud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which she said had "the will to fight terrorism" and "the desire to govern effectively" but did not yet have the means.
Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in June last year following bloody battles that ousted forces loyal to Abbas's Fatah faction, which remains in power in the West Bank.
Fatah and Hamas had served in a national unity government after Hamas won elections in 2006.
President George W. Bush said Tuesday he was still hopeful of a Middle East peace deal before he leaves office in January but warned that Hamas could "undermine" the effort.