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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 11:36 GMT
Arab aid slow to reach Palestinians
Conditions in Khan Yunis in Gaza Strip
Large parts of the territories lie in ruins
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

Foreign ministers from nine Arab countries have agreed that their governments should do more to help relieve the economic crisis facing the Palestinians.

This use of 'corruption' is very insulting - it is nothing but a smokescreen for not delivering

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath
The move, made at a meeting in Cairo, follows Palestinian criticism that massive financial pledges made at a special summit last October had not been fulfilled.

When Arab leaders met then to decide how to respond to the Palestinian uprising, one of the few concrete outcomes was a promise of $1bn in aid.

About two-thirds of that has now been firmly pledged and about a third of it has reached a bank in Saudi Arabia which is meant to distribute it.

But the Palestinian Planning Minister, Nabil Shaath, told the BBC that so far, only $8m of the money had reached the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials Nabil Shaath and Mahmud Abbas at the Cairo talks
All talk and no action, say Palestinian leaders
He said it had been devastating for the Palestinians to see, as he put it, their brothers not fulfil promises made.

And he dismissed concerns over corruption within the Palestinian authority.

"They're full of [accusations of] corruption, and corruption cannot possibly be used against people who are suffering a total siege like the Palestinian people.

"I think this use of corruption is a very insulting way of dealing with a brother who is really in need. It is nothing but a smokescreen for not delivering."

Fast track

Palestinians demonstrate for more funds
Up in arms: Palestinians call for help
But Arab foreign ministers have now agreed to recommend that their leaders do more to help.

They have decided that a new mechanism should be found to disperse the money more directly.

They say they will also recommend that Arab countries lend the Palestinian authority $40m a month to help it pay the wages of public employees like teachers and doctors.

The actual decisions are now expected to be taken at a summit in the Jordanian capital, Amman, later this month.

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12 Mar 01 | Middle East
Israeli rift over blockade
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