Palestinians won't seek halt in Saudi funding for Hamas

Friday, August 8, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority seeks continued Saudi funding including support for Hamas which the United States regards as a terrorist organization.

Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Riyad on late Thursday on the first leg of his Gulf tour. Officials said Abbas will meet Saudi leaders over the next four days and ask for an increase in financial aid for the PA.

The officials said Abbas has expressed no objection to Saudi financial support of Hamas and regards such backing as part of the kingdom's commitment to the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia is said to provide more than $50 million a year to Hamas. Officials said this comprises more than half of the revenues acquired by Hamas, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said Abbas was under pressure from Israel and pro-Israeli supporters in the U.S. Congress to halt Saudi funding to Hamas. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington has encouraged Arab allies in the Middle East to stop funding organizations that contribute to groups deemed as terrorists.

Palestinian ambassador to Riyad, Mustapha Hashem Sheik, said Abbas has not asked Saudi Arabia to stop supporting Hamas. Sheik said Riyad transfers money to Islamic groups through the PA rather than directly to Hamas, an assertion disputed by Israeli and U.S. officials.

PA officials also said Abbas has canceled a scheduled visit to Kuwait, which would have been the first by a PA representative to the sheikdom since the 1991 Gulf war.

Officials said Kuwait, which has long boycotted PA Chairman Yasser Arafat for his support of Iraq, requested that Abbas postpone his arrival. Instead, Abbas will travel to Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

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