May 3, 2011 - 12:00am

The US State Department on Tuesday described Hamas' condemnation of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as "outrageous."

After the Al-Qaeda chief was killed by US forces, the head of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, said: "We condemn any killing of a holy warrior or of a Muslim and Arab person and we ask God to bestow his mercy upon him."

Haniyeh said Hamas regards bin Laden's death as "as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood."

State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday Haniyeh's comments were outrageous and omitted the fact that bin Laden was a criminal and a terrorist.

Toner stressed bin Laden was not a martyr and died hiding far away from the scenes of battles he created.

Britain also criticized Hamas' response. Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament that he believed unity in welcoming the killing would help the stalled Middle East peace process.

Hague said: "It would assist that cause if it was possible to show across many different divides in the world a good deal of unity about what happened on Sunday night and the removal of the author of some of the world's greatest terrorist acts from the scene.

"It would have been better for Hamas to join the welcome to that. That would have been a boost in itself to the peace process."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the UK on Wednesday. Netanyahu will hold talks with Prime Minister David Cameron and is expected to point to a reconciliation deal between Hamas and the Western-backed Fatah in his efforts to block UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

Earlier on Tuesday, he called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the reconciliation agreement with Hamas.

US aid to PA will continue

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the unity deal with Netanyahu and Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad on Tuesday. Clinton stressed that US aid to the Palestinian Authority will continue.

State Department Spokesman Mark Toner did not comment on the agreement scheduled to be signed in Cairo on Wednesday but stressed that the current Palestinian government is still in place. Toner added that the US will review its policy based on the makeup of the new government and said he will not speculate before it is announced.

The US also urged Hamas to comply with the Quartet's principles and condemn violence, acknowledge Israel's right to exist and honor previous diplomatic agreements.

Will photo be released?

Also Tuesday, the White House said the photograph of a dead Osama bin Laden is "gruesome" and that "it could be inflammatory" if released.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the White House is mulling whether to make the photo public, but he said officials are concerned about the "sensitivity" of doing so.

Carney said there is a discussion internally about the most appropriate way to handle but "there is not some roiling debate here about this."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017