Tuesday, February 24, 2009

US Administration to Give '$900 Million in Gaza Aid'

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
06:03 Mecca time, 03:03 GMT

US to give '$900m in Gaza aid'

Hillary Clinton is to formally announce the aid package
next week, reports say

The US is set to offer more than $900m to help rebuild Gaza following Israel's military assault on the Palestinian territory, officials say.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is to formally announce the funding at a donor conference in Egypt next week, one US official told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

The money, which would need to be approved by the US congress, is to be distributed through the UN and other bodies and not via Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs Gaza, said one of the officials, who asked to remain anonymous.

The same official said the pledge was a mix of money already earmarked for the Palestinians and some new funding.

Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, said the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, had not moved towards engaging directly with Hamas but had modified some of its language towards dealing with Palestinians in Gaza.

It was prepared to mention Palestinian suffering without directly linking it to the actions of Hamas, our correspondent said.

The US has repeatedly said it will not hold talks with Hamas unless it recognises Israel, renounces violence and recognises previous Palestinian peace agreements.

In December, the administration of George Bush, Obama's predecessor, said it would give $85m to the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Gulf contribution

On Monday, the emir of Qatar also pledged $30m towards the UN's humanitarian projects in Gaza.

The Gulf Co-operation Council of rich Arab Gulf nations said this week that it would set up a fund to support reconstruction in Gaza and invited other Arab countries to contribute.

The size of the fund was to be decided at the donor conference in Egypt, Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, the GCC secretary-general, said, but added that a $1bn offer from Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and $250m from Qatar announced last month would form the "nucleus" of the fund.

The money will be used to directly support rebuilding projects, and not be handed over to any of the Palestinian parties or factions, al-Attiyah added.

Donor conference

The donor conference in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort aims to raise humanitarian and rebuilding funds for Gaza after Israel's offensive last December which it said was to stop rocket fire against its cities.

A Hamas delegation is also set to attend the conference, a report by the Reuters news agency said.

Preliminary reports have put damage from the offensive, in which more than 1,300 Palestinians died, at almost $2bn.

Clinton's bid to win substantial aid for the Palestinians could face problems in the US congress because Hamas continues to control Gaza and the US focus is on its own ailing economy.

The Quartet group of Middle East mediators - the US, the EU, Russia and the UN - are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Egyptian conference where they will work on their strategy on Gaza, US officials said.

After attending the conference in Egypt, Clinton is expected to go to Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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