Hamas to ask for Arab financial aid

On the eve of an Arab summit in Sudan, Hamas is pressing Arab leaders to increase their financial support to Palestinians, saying its government will need $170 million a month.

    Hamas chief Meshaal (L) is ending a visit to Kuwait

    Reaching that level of giving will be difficult. The $170 million a month figure is more than triple the amount Arab League members promised in previous summits, and they have failed to meet those pledges.

    Khaled Meshaal, the political chief of the resistance group told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Kuwait: "This of course is a big sum, and it is bigger than what Arab summits in Amman and Beirut had approved.

    "We hope that our Arab brothers would provide this support and provide it quickly because unfortunately there has been a shortage and lack of commitment."

    Many Palestinians who work for the Palestinian Authority have not received their February salaries, Meshaal said, adding that he has assured Arab leaders the funds will be protected from corruption and will not be mixed with Hamas money.

    New government

    "We hope that our Arab brothers would provide this [money] and provide it quickly because unfortunately there has been a shortage and lack of commitment"

    Khalid Meshaal, Hamas


    Hamas has formed a cabinet after its overwhelming victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, sweeping the governing Fatah party from power. The cabinet is to be sworn in on Thursday.

    Palestinians will be represented at the Tuesday and Wednesday summit in Khartoum by Mahmoud Abbas, the president, and the outgoing government.

    League members promised in 2002 to give $55 million a month to the Palestinians, with each country assigned an amount to give. Saudi Arabia is the only country to have paid its allotment regularly. Kuwait and other Gulf countries have given as well, but short of their pledges, while some countries paid once or twice or never.

    Since 2003, Arab countries have given $761 million - only 30% of the promised amount over that period.

    Funding needs

    President Abbas will convey the
    Hamas request at the Arab summit

    Besides "financial commitments", which will be decided in the summit, Meshaal said the Hamas-led cabinet wants Arab governments to fund and invest in building hospitals and schools in the Palestinian territories.

    Arab governments face pressure from the United States to stop funding any Palestinian government led by Hamas, which the United States and Europe consider a terror group.

    Meshaal said Hamas had no problem talking to American or European officials but will not recognise Israel.

    Any disagreement between the group and the Palestinian president could be resolved through dialogue, and there will be no Palestinian infighting, the political chief told reporters.

    Abbas threat

    Abbas hinted on Saturday that he was prepared to bring down Hamas's incoming government if the group's anti-Israel policies hurt the Palestinian people.

    Hamas will "take into consideration" advice it heard from Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, Kuwait's emir, to maintain Palestinian unity and to "deal realistically" with the challenges facing Palestinians, Meshaal said.

    Kuwait adheres to the official Arab position on Israel which, during a summit in Beirut in 2002, offered the Jewish state full recognition in exchange for full withdrawal from Arab lands.

    Hamas refuses to recognise Israel.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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