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Tuesday, May 3, 2011     GET REAL

Palestinian Authority reports decline in aid
as Israel, Arab states withhold funds

RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority, preparing for statehood this year, has reported a sharp drop in foreign aid.


Officials said Western and Arab donors have been withholding aid to the PA over the last year. They said the decrease in funding would hamper PA operations as well as preparations to build an independent state.

"We are unable to fulfill obligations and need additional aid," PA Prime Minister Salam Fayad said.

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Fayad raised the prospect that the PA, which had expected revenues of $1.14 billion in 2011, would be unable to pay salaries, including to members of the security forces.

He said Israel has been withholding more than $100 million since the ruling Fatah movement, which controls the PA, agreed to reconciliation with the opposition Hamas. The two movements were scheduled to sign an agreement on May 3 in Cairo.

In a news conference on May 2, Fayad said the largest drop in foreign aid came from Arab countries. The prime minister said Arab states relayed $236 million in 2010, down from $461 million during the previous year.

"In this difficult time, we ask our Arab brothers to help us immediately," Fayad said. "Our people will not go hungry."

Officials said the biggest decline came from Gulf Cooperation Council states. They also cited a decrease by European Union members, while the United States was said to have met its obligation to provide more than $300 million. The PA has been operating on a budget deficit of more than $900 million.

"What is needed is to move quickly to pressure Israel to release these funds," Fayad said. "But until that happens, we will not be able to meet our obligations, not only in salaries, but in other payments, without additional help."

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