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Rep. wants Hamas payment explained

A top Republican congressman told the Palestinian Authority he would do his best to block funds and contacts until he was sure it was not funding Hamas.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the Jewish deputy minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, led a group of 19 Republican members last week on a tour of Israel and the Palestinian areas. On Aug. 15, the delegation met in the West Bank with P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who assured the group that his government had no dealings with Hamas, the terrorist group that has taken control of the Gaza Strip.

The next day it was revealed that the P.A. finance ministry had paid salaries to Hamas militiamen. In the media, P.A. spokesmen delivered various explanations ranging from clerical error to a rogue official acting surreptitiously.

Cantor wrote Fayyad asking for a detailed explanation but has yet to hear from him.

“Unless I get an explanation from Mr. Fayyad, I would discourage any future visits with him,” Cantor told JTA. “I’m also going to oppose any future funding of that administration” until the expenditure is explained, he added.

Cantor’s outcry was the first sign of congressional Republican opposition to the Bush administration’s recent initiative to bolster the government installed by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas.

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