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Palestinians to tell Arabs they need 130 mln dollars month

Written by: Staff

KHARTOUM, Mar 25 (Reuters) The Palestinian Authority will tell an Arab summit it needs at least 130 million dollars a month to cover its budget if the West cuts off aid when the Islamist group Hamas takes office, Economy Minister Mazen Sonnoqrot said.

But Algerian Minister of State Abdelaziz Belkhadem said the Arabs had not yet agreed to go above their previous commitment to give the Palestinian Authority 50 million dollars a month.

''There's no increase now but we are hearing about the situation in Palestine,'' he told Reuters yesterday night.

Arab foreign ministers, who start a two-day meeting in the udanese capital Khartoum today, will discuss a draft resolution confirming their old commitment, he added.

''We're eager to make sure that there is at least the minimum (of Arab aid) but there's no increase,'' Belkhadem said.

In practice many Arab governments have not met their commitments to the Palestinians and donors such as the European Union have covered most of the budget shortfall.

But since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January, the United States and Europe have started to review all their aid to the Palestinians. They call Hamas a terrorist group.

Sonnoqrot said the Palestinian Authority already faced an economic crisis and many government employees had not received their salaries for February.

''We've asked them (the Arab governments) to increase the subsidy to the Palestinian Authority, for those of them that have the means,'' he told Reuters yesterday night.

Salaries alone cost the Palestinian Authority 108 million dollars a month, plus 7 million dollars a month in welfare payments and 25 million dollars a month in the running costs of government departments.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Wednesday he expected the Arab summit, which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday, to make specific commitments to help a Hamas government.

But Arab diplomats have said it is not yet clear if the Arab leaders will go beyond their old commitment.


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