President Bush says he will not deal with the Islamic militant group Hamas until it renounces violence. The president spoke at a White House news conference just hours after Hamas declared victory in Palestinian elections.
President Bush says Hamas must change.
"I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform," he said. "And I know you can't be a partner in peace if your party has got an armed wing."
He says now that Hamas has won a parliamentary majority, it has a chance, and a choice.
"The elections just took place," he said. "We will watch very carefully about the formation of the government. But I will continue to remind people of what I said. If your platform calls for the destruction of Israel, you are not a partner in peace and we are interested in peace."
Mr. Bush cautions the election of Hamas does not necessarily mean the peace process is dead. He interprets the victory not as a rejection of peace efforts, but as a sign of discontent with what he calls the old guard that has run Palestinian affairs for years.
"Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo," he said. "The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care."
President Bush says the election showed democracy at work, and says the balloting amounted to a wake-up call to the Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He says he would like to see President Abbas remain in office, and indicates he hopes Fatah will take to heart the message sent by the voters. He notes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already spoken to Mahmoud Abbas about the election results, and will step up consultations with other world leaders involved in the peace process.
During his news conference, President Bush was also asked about the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions. He said he supports the use of nuclear power to meet consumer energy needs, but added steps must be taken to make sure this technology is not diverted to make nuclear arms.
"I do believe people ought to be allowed to have civilian nuclear power," he said. "However, I do not believe non-transparent regimes that threaten the security of the world should be allowed to gain the technologies necessary to make a weapon."
The president began the session with reporters by summarizing the themes he plans to highlight next Tuesday in his State of the Union Address. He indicated large portions of the speech will deal with promoting freedom abroad and boosting economic growth at home.
Mr. Bush also reaffirmed his support for a controversial domestic surveillance program he authorized as a means to combat terror. The program involves monitoring of phone calls and e-mails between someone in the United States and a contact abroad believed to have links to al-Qaida. Critics say it is illegal, as the surveillance occurs without a warrant from a special court. But the president argued it is both legal and necessary.