Gulf allies reject U.S. call to stop funding Hamas

Thursday, July 3, 2003

ABU DHABI The major U.S. allies in the Gulf have quietly refused a request by the United States to drop their financial support for Hamas.

The U.S. message was relayed by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns. Over the last month, Burns has traveled through GCC countries and urged them to halt funding for Hamas, said to receive about $100 million a year, Middle East Newsline reported.

Gulf diplomatic sources said the Bush administration failed to win commitments from several Gulf Cooperation Council states to end financial support for Hamas.

So far, the sources said, at least three countries have rejected the U.S. request to end funding for Hamas. They identified the states as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

"The policy of GCC countries is to say that there is no official support for Hamas," a diplomatic source said. "That has come to mean that the GCC will not block financing to the movement."

"We want to work as hard as we can in the United States government to support those efforts across the whole range of areas: law enforcement cooperation, intelligence sharing, drying up the financing of terrorist groups, whether it's groups that have carried out acts in Saudi Arabia or any place else in the region or around the world," Burns told a news conference in Kuwait on June 25. "And I think what we've seen is a renewed effort and a stepped-up effort on the part of the United States and Saudi Arabia to cooperate on those issues, and again we work with lots of other partners in the region as well."

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Masha'al has frequently visited the three GCC states. The Gulf Arab governments have given Masha'al an official welcome.

"This [funding to Hamas] is under our control and according to our interests," Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al Jarallah said. "We distinguish between relations [with Hamas] and support. They are different."

Al Jarallah said Kuwait supports and recognizes the Palestinian Authority and its new prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. He said the sheikdom does not officially recognize Hamas.

The sources said Qatar and Saudi Arabia have relayed similar responses to the United States. All three GCC countries are said to serve as major contributors to as well as safe havens for Hamas leaders.

"Kuwait can't be part of the U.S. plan to dismantle Hamas," a Kuwaiti diplomat said. "It's not in our interest."

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