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Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Chirac calls for Palestinian aid
Jacques Chirac (left) and Mahmoud Abbas
Chirac said humanitarian and technical aid must continue
French President Jacques Chirac has called for international aid to the Palestinians to continue, despite the recent election victory of Hamas.

Mr Chirac said the World Bank should set up a fund to pay the salaries of Palestinian officials.

It comes after the US and EU cut off direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, which is struggling to pay the wages of more than 100,000 workers.

Mr Chirac was speaking after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Washington and the EU define Hamas as a terrorist organisation and say they will not consider relations with a PA under its control unless it renounces violence and recognises Israel.

Escrow account

Following talks with Mr Abbas in Paris, Mr Chirac suggested the World Bank could pay PA officials directly, thereby bypassing Hamas.

The creation of a special account to receive funds intended to pay the salaries could be studied urgently, Mr Chirac's office quoted the president as saying.

Mr Chirac said he would raise the issue with members of the Middle East peace quartet - the EU, US, UN and Russia - at a meeting on 9 May.

The president also called for the continuation of humanitarian and technical aid to the Palestinians "for human and political reasons".

But he called on Hamas to "rally around the positions agreed by the international community", AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

"It is an essential and necessary condition for the establishment of normal relations with this government.

"What is vital is the re-establishment of a negotiated political process so as to allow the establishment of peace between two states living side-by-side," he said.

'Heading for disaster'

Mr Abbas, who is in France on the last leg of a European tour, welcomed Mr Chirac's suggestion.

"Aid to the Palestinian people must continue, especially humanitarian aid and salaries, because these are crucial and sensitive issues for our people," AFP quoted him as saying.

Without international help, he said, the Palestinians were "heading for a disaster".

Earlier this month, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said the Palestinian finance ministry had no money left, while accruing mounting debts.

The PA had received about $600m (500m euros) a year in aid from the EU since its foundation in 1994, with another $400m coming from the US.

According to the UN, a quarter of the Palestinian population depends on government salaries.

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