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U.S. Officials Livid with UNRWA over Hamas Letter

U.S. officials are outraged at UNRWA for handing a letter from a Hamas official to Sen. Kerry in Gaza. The letter was addressed to President Obama.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/22/2009, 5:01 PM

U.S. officials in Jerusalem are furious with the United Nations' Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) for its role in Hamas' attempt to use U.S. Senator John Kerry for transferring a letter from the terror group to President Obama. The incident occurred during Kerry's trip to the Middle East.

The incident also raised security concerns over whether Hamas had inside knowledge of Kerry's travel plans.

Kerry turned the letter over to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem on Friday, but claimed that he was not aware that it was from Hamas until he heard about the letter on BBC and other media reports. He told FOX News on Saturday that he would not be visiting Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during his trip to Syria on Saturday. He met Syrian President Bashar Assad.

An official U.S. source who spoke to FOX News said that if the U.N. agency had a letter from Hamas, it should have told U.S. officials about it before the news was leaked to media organizations. FOX News says it spoke with the Hamas official who wrote the letter but does not name him. He confirmed that he wrote Obama personally, asking him not to be biased toward Israel in the conflict and to act fairly. He also said Hamas is ready to talk directly to a new American administration.

Kerry said that he had never read the letter because it was sandwiched among other promotional papers the U.N. gave him. A State Department official confirmed that the letter was indeed from Hamas and is now under review.

President Obama has said his administration will not engage in diplomatic talks with Hamas unless the group renounces terrorism and affirms Israel's right to exist.

In addition, a U.S. official said there were security issues with the letter. The official said there is concern that Hamas had advance notice that Kerry was visiting, "which may raise issues of trust with the U.N. on future diplomatic trips."