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The BBC's Phillippa Thomas
"Governor Bush has reason to be optimistic"
 real 56k

Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Hillary returns pro-Palestinian cash
Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat
Hillary Clinton has fallen foul of Middle East politics before
Hillary Clinton moved on Wednesday to defuse a row over donations to her campaign for election to the US Senate by promising to return $50,000 to an Arab-American organisation.

The American Muslim Alliance (AMA) gave the money after a $500 per ticket fund-raising event attended by Mrs Clinton in Boston in June.


All $50,000, every penny of it, is going back

Hillary Rodham Clinton
The group's national president, Agha Saeed, has said under United Nations resolutions, Palestinians have the right to "resist by armed force" if peaceful means fail in their pursuit of their own state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Republican candidate for New York's senate seat Rick Lazio called the donation "blood money", but Mrs Clinton said she had not been told the AMA was a sponsor of the Boston event, despite being pictured receiving a plaque from the group.

Support from New York's Jewish voters, who are expected to account for at least 12% of ballots cast on 7 November, is crucial to winning the election.

Mrs Clinton was damaged early in the campaign when she offended some Jewish voters during a trip to the Middle East, by embracing Suha Arafat after a speech in which the wife of the Palestinian leader accused Israel of poisoning people in the Palestinian territories.

She later issued a statement criticising Mrs Arafat for making inflammatory remarks.

Late switch

Mrs Clinton said she thought the event on 13 June had been organised by a Boston businessman.

Rick Lazio (left) with Mayor Giuliani travel on the subway to the World Series
Rick Lazio (left) accused Mrs Clinton of accepting "blood money"
"I resent deeply this organisation acting as though it hosted this event," she said. "It was not the case."

The New York Daily News, which broke the story on Wednesday, quoted the chairman of Massachusetts chapter of the alliance as saying it had taken over sponsorship of the event "about one week" before it happened.

The AMA said the event was attended by nearly 100 American Muslim leaders and activists. Their website shows a picture of Mrs Clinton holding a plaque presented on behalf of AMA and the Muslim community.

Mrs Clinton said she received thousands of plaques and usually handed them to her aides without examining them.

"I strongly disagree with the positions taken by this group," she said.

Hamas link

Donations of $1,000 from a prominent member of the American Muslim Council are being returned by both Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate George W Bush.

Abdurahman Alamoudi has reportedly expressed support for the Palestinian group Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organisation because of its attacks on Israeli citizens.

The donations were made in May this year.

A Bush spokesman said the Texan governor had worked hard to bring people together and supported US efforts to broker peace in the Middle East.

The New York Daily News quoted Abdulwahab Alkebsi, deputy director of the American Muslim Council, as saying his group was "appalled" at the decision to return the contributions, saying: "This is another witch hunt against the Muslim community."

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25 Oct 00 | Americas
Candidates fight for close states
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