Cheney: no US help for PA unless Hamas renounces terror

 Vice President Dick Cheney delivers his remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Tuesday. (AP)
Vice President Dick Cheney told an influential pro-Israel group Tuesday that the United States will not help the Palestinians build a full-fledged state whose leaders use terror and violence.

The comment to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was directed to leaders of Hamas, the Palestinians’ newly elected majority party. It also seemed meant to reinforce President George W. Bush’s main Middle East policy initiative, Israeli and Palestinian states existing side-by-side in peace.

Despite the outcome in those elections and others in the Middle East, Cheney defended the Bush administration’s push for democracy in the region’s unsettled political climate.

Cheney said free elections are “only the beginning” in a democracy, because those elected must “nurture institutions and laws that serve the peaceful aspirations” of their people.

“Such duties now belong to the newly elected government in the Palestinian territories,” Cheney said. If Hamas wants international help to build the Palestinian state, it must change, he said

“If the leaders of Hamas desire the help of Americans and the international community to build an independent, prosperous Palestinian state, the way forward is very clear: the Palestinian government must recognize Israel’s right to exist,” Cheney said, drawing applause from the audience of some 5,000 at Washington’s convention center. “And Hamas must renounce terror and dismantle the infrastructure of terror.”

He said “one thing is certain: the United States will not be a party to the establishment of a Palestinian state that sponsors terror and violence.”

Bush’s push for democracy has been called into question since Hamas – designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government – won a landslide victory in January’s Palestinian elections.

Likewise in Egypt, the country’s largest Islamic fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, took 20 percent of the parliament seats in elections there late last year.

And in Iraq, a strong showing in elections by supporters of radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has boosted his political strength.

Cheney said there is little alternative to democracy since denying people the right to express themselves is a main cause of Middle East extremism in the first place.

“By helping the peoples of that region gain the freedom to express their views, to have open debate and to choose their own leaders, we have a better chance of defeating the radicalism that threatens us all,” Cheney said.

He also demanded that Syria “stop trying to interfere with the future of a free Lebanon.”

And he said the United States supports democracy for the people of Iraq, who have “endured a generation of repression at the hands of a fanatical regime.”

Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons

Cheney also said Tuesday that Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons and warned “the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime.”

Cheney said the Iranian government “continues to defy the world with its nuclear ambitions” and that the issue may soon go before the U.N. Security Council.

“The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences,” Cheney said in a speech to the to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

Cheney spoke as diplomats at an International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, were considering whether to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. The United States believes Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons; Iran says its nuclear program is for generating electricity.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in Washington Tuesday to discuss Iran with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Cheney said the United States joins “other nations in sending that regime a clear message: we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

He denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for calling for Israel’s destruction and denying that the Nazi Holocaust of Jews took place.

He said he supports the “the democratic aspirations of the people of Iran” and said “Iranians have endured a generation of repression at the hands of a fanatical regime. That regime is one of the world’s primary state sponsor of terror.”