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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 17:25 GMT
Abbas vows to honour peace deals
Angela Merkel and Mahmoud Abbas
Mr Abbas (R) denied suggestions that he would step down
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to honour peace agreements with Israel, while urging foreign donors to continue giving aid to the territories.

Speaking during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he said he would carry on pursuing peace.

The visit follows last week's election win by Islamic militant group Hamas.

The EU and US say they will stop funding the Palestinian Authority if Hamas fails to renounce violence or recognise Israel.

Senior officials from the US, Russia, the EU and the UN are meeting in London later to consider the issue of aid to the Palestinians and relations with any Hamas-led government.

EU member states donated about $600m (341m) to the Palestinians in 2005, while the US gave $400m in 2004-05.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was "attentive to the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinian people", but would wait and see before making a decision on whether it would continue its aid.

Earlier, a Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyah, called on the US and the EU to respect the democratic choice of the Palestinian people and engage in a dialogue with the movement.

Vital work

Meanwhile, in Israel, officials in the prime minister's office have said it is unlikely that the next payment of tax and customs revenues collected for the Palestinian Authority will be transferred on Wednesday, when it is due.

Hamas supporter celebrates
Hamas has said it could accept a long-term truce
At a news conference after meeting Mrs Merkel in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr Abbas said it was vital that the work of the Palestinian Authority should carry on as normal.

"I stressed the importance of the continuation of financial and other types of support by the donor countries, in order that the institutions continue to function and the plan to build our independent Palestinian state is not disrupted or derailed," he said, referring to his conversation with the German chancellor.

He reiterated his commitment to the peace process "through negotiations and according to international legitimacy".

Mrs Merkel said support for the authority was possible, if the EU's conditions were met.

Her comments were echoed in Brussels after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Truce offer

The Palestinian leader also denied suggestions that he would resign, and said he would meet Hamas leaders to form a new government within the next two weeks.

Hamas may actually bring to the negotiating table the very people who can actually arrange a peace that can stick
Steve, Melbourne

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says that in public there is already some agreement between Europe and the US on the message to send to Hamas leaders.

But she adds that behind the rhetoric, they also have to decide what they will do if Hamas fails to comply, so that outside pressure does not end up making an already volatile situation worse.

Hamas, which has carried out scores of suicide bombings and refuses to recognise the state of Israel, is classified as a terrorist group by the US and EU.

However, another leader of the group, Mahmoud Zahhar, said Hamas could agree to a long-term "hudna", or truce, if Israel accepted a Palestinian state based on the internationally-recognised borders of 1967.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and has since settled about 400,000 Jews in the territories.

1: World Bank $85m
2: Isr/Pal integration $12m
3: UN relief (UNRWA) $77m
4: Food aid $35m
5: Humanitarian aid $33m
6: Special projects $24m
7: Infrastructure $72m
8: Member states $262m

EU TOTAL: $600m
1: 2003/04 rollover $175m
2: PA debts $20m
3: Gaza infrastructure $50m
4: USAID projects $155m

US TOTAL: $400m
Sources: EU, US

The background to discussions on Palestinian funding

Israel and the Palestinians



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