Wed, Dec 13, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Tehran pledges more money to keep Hamas afloat


Iran has pledged US$250 million in aid to the cash-strapped Hamas-led Palestinian government, the latest sign of increasingly close ties between the Islamic group and the Tehran government, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday.

Haniyeh's office announced the donation at the end of a four-day visit by the prime minister to Tehran. He then traveled to Sudan.

Western donors cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas won parliamentary elections last January. The donors have demanded that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.

The government, heavily in debt, has been unable to pay the salaries to its 165,000 employees, who make up the backbone of the Palestinian government. Despite widespread hardship in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Hamas has refused to accept the conditions. Instead, it has turned to Iran and other Muslim countries for help.

Iran had already has pledged US$120 million to the Hamas-led government this year.

Haniyeh said the new donations would come next year.

"The total amount of financial aid from Iran will reach around a quarter billion dollars," Haniyeh said.

This includes US$100 million in direct aid to the government; US$45 million for workers' salaries and assistance to the families of prisoners held by Israel; US$60 million for unemployed Palestinians; US$20 million to rebuild houses destroyed in fighting with Israel and US$15 million for libraries and cultural programs, the Hamas Web site showed.

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