The new Palestinian foreign minister, Hamas member Mahmoud al-Zahar, got off to a bad start by slandering the United States, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Thursday.
Zahar said a day after being sworn in as a member of the new Palestinian cabinet that America was committing "big crimes" against Arab and Islamic countries.
He was responding to President George W. Bush's statement on Wednesday that the United States would not give aid to the Hamas-led government because it has expressed its desire to destroy Israel.
"We obviously unequivocally reject that proposition and I would note also to Foreign Minister Zahar that casual slander is an inauspicious way to begin," Bolton said during a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East.
Washington had seen nothing to change its mind about Hamas, Bolton said, describing it as a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians and which has harmed Palestinians' aspirations for statehood.
The United States ordered its diplomats and contractors on Wednesday to cut off contacts with Palestinian ministries after the Hamas-led government was sworn in, two months after the Islamic group's landslide election victory.
In a further sign of how the United States aims to isolate Hamas, Bolton said Washington had decided to redefine the duties of U.S. Major-General Keith Dayton, who was appointed last November to oversee Israeli-Palestinian security coordination efforts.
Dayton had previously worked on such issues as Gaza border crossings and Palestinian security reforms but was now being asked to end all
The Security Council meeting came hours after the quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- noted with "grave concern" that Hamas had failed to respond to its January plea to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past Palestinian international commitments.
Senior U.N. political aide Tuliameni Kalomoh told the council the new Palestinian government had shown "signs of evolution" in its hard-line stance but said it had to do more to ensure international support for the Palestinian peoples' aspirations for peace and statehood.
He also warned Israel that unilateral action in place of negotiated steps toward peace could make it even more difficult to convince the Palestinians to compromise.
The centrist Kadima party led by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which won Tuesday's election in Israel, has pledged to set Israel's final borders by 2010 with or without the agreement of its Palestinian neighbor.
Both Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have expressed a willingness to resume final status peace talks, however, and Kalomoh appealed to both sides to seriously explore a resumption of negotiations.