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Quartet agrees on a way to get aid to Palestinians

Written by: Staff
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UNITED NATIONS, May 10 (Reuters) The quartet of Middle East peace brokers has agreed on a way to channel aid to the Palestinians for a trial period to ease a financial squeeze on the new government following the election of Hamas.

The group of international mediators -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- issued a statement yesterday after a day of talks in which Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia warned of a civil war if the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority was left to collapse.

''The quartet expressed its willingness to endorse a temporary international mechanism that is limited in scope and duration, operates with full transparency and accountability,'' said the quartet statement.

The move came after the World Bank warned on Monday that the Palestinian Authority could face a breakdown in law and order and basic services unless foreign donors step in to pay the salaries of about 165,000 civil servants.

The United States, which initially opposed a European proposal to channel aid to the Palestinians via an international mechanism such as the World Bank, said any such move would have to be limited in scope and mechanism so aid would not reach the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

''The thrust of the statement is that the international community is still trying to respond to the needs of the Palestinian people,'' U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a news conference at the United Nations with other quartet members.

''It is to provide assistance to the Palestinian people so they do not suffer deprivation,'' she said.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the international mechanism to be used, which has not yet been fully decided on, should begin as soon as possible and be reviewed after three months.

The European Union will take the lead in working out the details but has suggested in the past that the World Bank could be a suitable vehicle for getting aid to the Palestinians.

Reuters PDS VP0427

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