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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

EU: Aid To Palestinians Greater Than In Previous Years

Associated Press
Dec. 5, 2006

EU: Aid To Palestinians Greater Than In Previous Years

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP)--Despite a boycott of the Hamas-led
Palestinian government, the European Union has found ways to
increase its total aid to the Palestinian people, most recently
helping support thousands of needy families, an EU official said

The EU said its contribution to the Palestinians has increased by
27% from last year, to EUR651 million, though the EU, U.S. and
Israel have banned direct aid to the Palestinian government.

One tool is a temporary funding mechanism that funnels money
directly to the people and projects, bypassing the government.
The EU and its member states have contributed EUR200 million to
the temporary mechanism, administered by the World Bank.

The "Quartet" of Mideast mediators - the EU, U.S., Russia and
United Nations - set up the temporary funding procedure in July,
as economic hardships from the aid cutoff hit ordinary
Palestinians because of their choice of a Hamas-led government.

The EU, U.S. and Israel list Hamas as a terror organization. The
Islamic militant group swept a parliamentary election and took
office in March, triggering the Western aid cutoff. Also, Israel
suspended about $55 million in monthly transfers of taxes
collected for the Palestinians.

Since then, however, Western governments and aid groups have
found ways to get money to the people. Some funds are directed to
the office of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mario Mariani, director of the temporary funding program, said
the temporary funding mechanism is up for renewal in December.
The latest payout was 1,000 shekels ($246) to the families who
used to receive benefits from the now bankrupt Palestinian
Ministry of Social Affairs, including widows, orphans and the

The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinians, providing around
EUR500 million a year. Most of that is channeled through U.N.
assistance programs and NGO projects, but EUR70 million from the
EU's common budget last year was placed in a World Bank trust
fund for direct payments to help the Palestinian Authority cover
its day-to-day costs.

At the same time, Hamas officials say contributions from Arab
nations are increasing, easing hardships that have resulted from
the government's inability to pay its 165,000 employees,
triggering strikes.

Samir Abu Eisheh, the acting finance minister, said about $400
million were collected from Arab countries - 90% from Arab
governments. Most of it went for salaries and ministry budgets,
he said.

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