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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006, 00:48 GMT 01:48 UK
Palestinians to get Russian aid
Hamas supporters in Gaza City
Hamas supporters in Gaza City condemn the withdrawal of aid
Russia has said it will grant the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority urgent financial aid, in opposition to the policy of the EU and the US.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the pledge to authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a telephone call, Moscow said.

The US and EU cut off aid after Hamas took power on 30 March because the militant group refused to renounce violence or recognise Israel.

Iran on Friday urged the Muslim world to help fund the authority.

A Russian foreign ministry statement said: "Mahmoud Abbas stated his high appreciation of Russia's intent, confirmed by Sergei Lavrov, to grant the Palestinian Authority an urgent financial aid in the nearest future."

Mr Lavrov said on Tuesday withholding aid to the Palestinians was a mistake.

The chain of plots by the American government aimed at governing the Middle East through the control of the Zionist regime will not succeed
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

"Hamas should... recognise Israel and sit down at the negotiating table. But for that it's necessary to work with them," Mr Lavrov said.

The US Treasury this week further tightened the screws on Palestinian cash by banning American nationals from doing business with the Hamas-led authority.

However, the US is making exceptions for government entities under the direct control of Mr Abbas, whose Fatah movement is a rival of Hamas.

Palestinian PM Ismail Haniya, of Hamas, vowed on Friday that the cuts in funds would not weaken the people's resolve.

Israel 'a rotten tree'

In Tehran, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, opened a three-day forum on Palestinian solidarity by calling on the Muslim world to help the Palestinian people and their Hamas-led government.

Ayatollah Khamenei said all Muslims had a duty to help and should not remain indifferent to tyranny.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei said the West's liberal democracy was poison

Both he and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched strong attacks on the West.

Ayatollah Khamenei said its liberal democracy was like a poison.

He said global imperialism led by the US president openly threatened the Muslim world by talking about launching a crusade against it

President Ahmadinejad widened the attack to include Israel, which he said was "a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm".

The president provoked an international outcry last October when he cast doubts on the Holocaust and said Israel should be "wiped off the map".

On Friday he said there were no doubts about the "holocaust" suffered by the Palestinian people in the past 60 years and that the Palestinians should not pay the price for what the West said were crimes against Jews.

"Believe that Palestine will be freed soon," he said.

Oil and olives

Mr Haniya said on Friday the suspension of Western aid to the Palestinians would never defeat the Hamas-led administration.

He said the West would not succeed in isolating the government because it had the full support of Palestinians.

"We will eat cooking oil and olives," he said.

Mr Haniya was addressing Friday prayers in Gaza before the start of a series of rallies aimed at demonstrating support for the Hamas-led administration.

The militant group's political leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal, is attending the Tehran conference to gain funding pledges.

Iran has said it will fund the Hamas-led government but so far no figures have been publicly pledged and no concrete deals have yet been announced at the conference.

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