CAIRO, Feb 20 (AP): The head of the Arab League says members are meeting this week to hammer out a plan for sending millions of dollars a month to the Palestinian Authority, despite US attempts to stop the flow of money to the new Hamas-led government.
Secretary-General Amr Moussa said that foreign ministers from several Arab countries were to meet Monday in Algiers to examine a plan to send about $50 million (euro42 million) a month to the Palestinian Authority. A final decision is not expected until Arab leaders meet in a summit next month in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
The money is part of Palestinian funding the Arab League approved last year - before Hamas' election victory in January. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already contributed to the financially strapped Palestinian Authority and more money is on its way, Moussa said Sunday.
The $50 million (euro42 million) monthly stipend, however, only represents what the Arab League initially pledged give the Palestinians during a summit nearly four years ago, and some Palestinians voiced skepticism that their fellow Arabs would come through.
"Since the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, the Arab governments decided to give the Palestinians $600 million (euro506 million) a year. That never materialised. The Arabs made promises, but never delivered," said Samir Ghattas, head of the Palestinian Al-Kuds Research Centre.
A senior Palestinian official, who refused to be identified because he did not wish to embarrass fellow Arabs, agreed with Ghattas' figures.
"The maximum that Arab countries have paid is $100 million (euro84 million) of the $600 million (euro506 million) they agreed to give," he told The Associated Press.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned Iran and other Middle East powers against giving money to a Hamas-led government. She also expressed doubt that the militant Islamic group could raise badly needed international financing unless it changes its policies.
Rice is planning a trip to the region this week to reinforce the US message during talks with leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Mohammad Sobeih, Moussa's deputy, said the Arab League expects the Arab governments to brush aside the U.S warnings. "This is a summit resolution and no one is expected to ignore it," he said referring to Arab funding of the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian Authority gets a large part of its approximately $1.9 billion (euro1.6 billion) annual budget from overseas sources. Without money from the Arab world, Europe and the United States, a Hamas-led government would be nearly broke.
Hamas leaders have said they will look elsewhere for money and were expected to appeal to Arab states and Iran.