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Qatar asks for $1 bn for Palestinians in east Jerusalem

Qatar`s emir on Tuesday urged for USD 1 billion fund to help Palestinians in Arab east Jerusalem, and offered to contribute USD 250 million towards it.

Doha: Qatar`s emir on Tuesday urged for USD 1 billion fund to help Palestinians in Arab east Jerusalem, and offered to contribute USD 250 million towards it.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, made the proposal at the opening of an Arab League summit, saying other Arab countries must provide the remainder, and that the fund would be run by the Islamic Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

He gave no details for its implementation.

The Gulf Arab state last year promised USD 400 million to help rebuild the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, heavily damaged by successive Israeli military operations, the latest in November 2012.

The emir also proposed holding a small-scale Arab summit in Egypt aimed at reconciliation between Hamas and its Ramallah-based rival Fatah, which controls the West Bank and is headed by president Mahmud Abbas.

Hamas welcomed the initiative, praising "the Egyptian, Arab and Islamic efforts to support and speed up Palestinian national reconciliation and unification," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007 after ousting Fatah forces, stalled after an agreement in Doha in 2012 between Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.

Qatar`s simultaneous offer of funds for east Jerusalem came as Abbas`s Palestinian Authority was debating a draft budget amounting to USD 3.9 billion, of which it said USD 1.4 billion would have to come from foreign financing.

Prime minister Salam Fayyad lamented a lack of payment of foreign aid as he presented the 2013 draft budget to politicians and economists in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, yesterday.

"The principal reason for our financial crisis last year was the lack of payment of foreign financial aid that was counted on," he said.

On Friday, following a three-day visit by US President Barack Obama to Jerusalem and Ramallah, a top official in Washington said the US had unblocked almost USD 500 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority that had been frozen by Congress for months.

And Israel is to immediately unblock revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, frozen last year in retaliation for the Palestinians winning upgraded UN status, the Israeli premier`s office said yesterday.

Total 2013 expenditure, including on development, would amount to almost USD 3.9 billion, the Palestinian Authority draft budget said.


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