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Qatar says to give 50 mln dollar funding to Hamas govt

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DOHA, Apr 17 (Reuters) Staunch US ally Qatar today said it would give 50 million dollar in aid to the Palestinian Authority despite calls from Washington and European Union to halt funding unless the Hamas-led government recognises Israel.

The Gulf Arab state, which hosted the command centre for the US military in the 2003 Iraq war, said the aid decision ''stems from Qatar's support for the Palestinian people''.

A Foreign Ministry official told the state-owned news agency part of the money was Qatar's contribution to the 55 million dollar a month pledged by Arab leaders to Hamas at a March summit.

It did not say how or when the money would reach the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority. Fearing US sanctions, many banks are refusing to do business with Hamas.

Since taking office on March 29, the Hamas-led authority has been under intense financial and diplomatic pressure from Israel and the West, which have cut off hundreds of millions of dollars of funding until it renounces violence, recognises the Jewish state and abides by existing peace deals.

Qatar, a political maverick in the largely conservative Gulf region, has hosted Hamas leaders in the past. It was one of the countries a Hamas delegation visited earlier this year during a tour aimed at drumming up funds for the Palestinian Authority.

Yesterday, Iran said it was giving the Hamas government 50 million dollar to fill in gaps left by Western aid cuts and frozen Israeli tax transfers.

REUTERS SI RAI1650

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