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Administration says it wants Hamas "put out of business"
WASHINGTON (AP) — Responding to Israel's slaying of a Hamas leader, the Bush administration denounced the Palestinian group on Monday as a terrorist organization that should be "put out of business."

Over time the Palestinian government should shut down Hamas and provide Palestinians with the social services that Hamas offers them, spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Taking the approach it usually does when Israel strikes, the State Department said Israel had a right to defend itself but also should consider the consequences of its actions.

Asked if the administration opposed targeted assassinations, Boucher said U.S. policy had not changed. He referred to past statements admonishing Israel for eliminating leaders of groups such as Hamas, which has carried out suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

Boucher said Hamas was a terrorist organization and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was killed in an Israeli helicopter strike on Saturday, was a leader of the group.

Rantisi had assumed the post less than a month ago after a similar Israeli attack killed Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who founded Hamas with Rantisi.

"We especially consider groups that are actively blowing up people to be terrorist organizations," Boucher said. "We are looking for people to put Hamas out of business."

But the administration also was concerned about the impact on Mideast peacemaking now that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has recommitted his support for President Bush's backing of a Palestinian state, Boucher said.

Hoping to make headway, Secretary of State Colin Powell was expecting to meet in Washington on Wednesday with Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath.

But Shaath announced Saturday he was canceling the trip.

Palestinian leaders last week accused Bush of undercutting a negotiated settlement by expressing support for Jews to remain on the West Bank and opposition to a right of Palestinian exiles to resettle in Israel.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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