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Hamas leader says his government will not fall

Written by: Staff
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JABALYA CAMP, Gaza Strip, Apr 14 (Reuters) Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh today said the Hamas government would not be brought down by financial pressure from what he called an unholy alliance led by the United States.

''We will eat cooking oil and olives,'' a defiant Haniyeh said of the Palestinian people, who elected the Islamic militant group to power in a landslide election in January.

Haniyeh said the United States and its allies were mistaken if they thought the newly sworn-in government would fall in four to six weeks because of the aid cuts.

''This government will continue for the full four years,'' Haniyeh said at Gaza's biggest refugee camp, where poverty and unemployment were rampant long before the European Union and the United States froze direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Thousands of supporters at the camp chanted Haniyeh's name in unison. They criticised the United States, the EU and Israel, which has cut off tax revenue transfers, screaming: ''Shame on you.'' Speaking through a loudspeaker, a Hamas activist said: ''If our people starve, we will blow up our bodies in the depths of the Zionist entity.'' Hamas says it inherited a Palestinian Authority with empty coffers and more than 1.3 billion dollar in government debts.

Unable to pay March salaries to 140,000 government workers, Hamas has stepped up appeals to Arab states to make up for the loss of Western funds.

Hamas Finance Minister Omar Abdel-Razek said that, without that money, the Palestinian economy could collapse in three to four months and that this would spark a humanitarian crisis and chaos.

Like the United States, the EU has severed political contacts with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

In his speech, Haniyeh said some countries in the EU had made contacts with the Hamas government, but he did not identify the countries by name.

''The aim of these pressures and this siege is to win political concessions. They will not win political concessions from us that will harm the rights of our people,'' Haniyeh said.

''We won't surrender, and all the attempts to isolate the government will not succeed,'' he said.

REUTERS SI PM1746

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