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US queries Qatar on Hamas donation

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Apr 17 (Reuters) The United States asked close ally Qatar today to clarify details over 50 million dollar it plans to give the Palestinian Authority, despite calls from Washington not to directly fund a Hamas-led government committed to the destruction of Israel.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he had seen public statements that Qatar planned to give the Palestinian Authority the funds and would like more information.

''We'd seek a little clarity from the government of Qatar as to exactly what their intentions are, to whom they actually intend to give this money and under what circumstances,'' said McCormack.

''We're going to try to seek all of the facts before we have a more definitive response,'' he told reporters.

The Gulf state's foreign ministry has said the money was Qatar's contribution to 55 million dollar a month pledged by Arab leaders to Hamas at a March summit.

The United States is urging other nations not to send money until Hamas gives up its avowed goal of destroying the Jewish state, renounces terrorism and commits itself to peace negotiations.

McCormack said even if Qatar's pledge and a further 50 million dollar promised by Iran materialized, they would only cover two-thirds of one month of salaries for the Palestinian Authority.

Since Hamas took over the Palestinian government three weeks ago, the United States, the European Community and other western countries have cut off aid and Israel has frozen the transfer of tax and customs receipts it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

McCormack said previous pledges of support for the Palestinian Authority made by Middle Eastern countries had not yet materialized.

The United States has said it will not allow any US funds to directly reach Hamas, which it classifies as a terrorist group.

However, it has offered humanitarian assistance channeled via nongovernmental organizations and not Hamas.

McCormack reiterated the United States would have no direct contact with Hamas and urged other governments to do the same, particularly after Monday's suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv that killed at least nine people and wounded 60. A Hamas spokesman said the attack was ''a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes against our people.'' REUTERS PDS PM0122

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