Major powers agree on aid plan for Palestinians

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WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) International Middle East mediating powers have agreed on an aid scheme for Palestinians that bypasses the Hamas-led government, which has defied demands to recognize Israel.

The United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia said in a statement yesterday they endorsed an EU proposal for a temporary mechanism that includes aid for the health sector and utilities.

Known as the Quartet, the group said it hoped international donors including Israel would also contribute.

The scheme covers essential supplies to the health sector and payments to health-care service providers, utilities including fuel, and cash allowances to cover the basic needs of the poorest sections of the population.

The agreement was expected after the EU agreed to the plan on Friday and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States was close to endorsing it.

The 25-member EU and the United States suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority when the Islamic militant group Hamas, which won control of the Palestinian government in a January parliamentary election, refused to recognize Israel and failed to renounce violence.

But they acknowledged last month an emergency plan was needed to prevent the Palestinian territories from sliding into chaos.

Still, the Quartet urged Palestinian leaders to accept previous agreements and obligations, including the Middle East peace ''roadmap,'' commit to nonviolence and recognize Israel.

''The Palestinian Authority government must fulfill its responsibilities with respect to basic human needs, including health services, as well as for proper fiscal management and provision of services,'' the group also said.

After three months the Quartet said it would decide whether the aid plan was still needed.

Earlier yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the EU's plan was a good step but inadequate.

Abbas said it was not clear how the plan would be carried out and that it would ''lead to abolition of the role of the government and the PA (Palestinian Authority),'' according to the Egyptian news agency MENA.


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