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Bush Greets Hamas Victory with Caution

President Bush reacts cautiously to the success of the militant Hamas party in Palestinian elections. The United States lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, but the president suggests he could work with the new Hamas-led government if it would agree to recognize Israel's right to exist.

It was not the outcome the administration was hoping for, but Mr. Bush, who has spoken so much about the need to promote democracy in the Mideast, was not about to criticize the results of the Palestinian vote.

"I like the competition of ideas," Mr. Bush said in a news conference. "I like people who have to go out and say, 'Vote for me, and here's what I'm going to do.' There's something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting."

But the president made it clear that victory in an election does not suddenly change his view of Hamas.

"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," Mr. Bush said. "And I know you can't be a partner in peace if… your party has got an armed wing."

The president insisted, however, that he does not see this as the end of the effort to establish a Palestinian state under the so-called roadmap for peace.

Bush also touched on Iran's nuclear program. He said that under close international supervision, Iran could have a civilian nuclear program to produce energy. But he said he does not believe that is the Iranian government's intention.

"I don't believe non-transparent regimes that threaten the security of the world should be allowed to gain the technologies necessary to make a weapon," Mr. Bush said. "And the Iranians have said, 'We want a weapon.'"

On another topic, Mr. Bush continued his defense of domestic spying without warrants from a special court established in 1978 for such purposes. He insisted, as he has repeatedly in recent weeks, that the program is legal and focused on calls into the United States from suspected al Qaeda members outside the country.

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You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.