Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Foreign donors raise reward for peace


The US, Europe and Arab countries are considering greatly increasing -- maybe even doubling -- aid to the Palestinians on the condition that they and Israel take certain steps toward reducing their conflict, US and Palestinian officials say.

A four-year package of US$6 billion to US$8 billion would be forthcoming if Palestinian elections occur successfully and if the new government cracks down on militant groups and Israel lifts scores of roadblocks and checkpoints to ease the transit of goods and people in Palestinian areas.

The possibility of an aid increase was the subject of intense discussions at a donors meeting on Dec. 8 in Oslo, Norway. According to participants, the aim of the meeting was to help moderate Palestinian leaders after the death of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and to prepare for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to pull set-tlers and forces out of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

The World Bank says that the package, which would come from the US, the EU, Arab states and other donors, would be the largest per capita international aid program since World War II.

The Palestinians are already the world's largest per capita recipients of international aid, getting about US$1 billion for 3.5 million inhabitants, or nearly US$300 per person. The contemplated aid package would increase that amount by 50 to 100 percent.

No pledges were sought at Oslo, participants said. The discussion instead focused on what aid might be realistic.

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