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Donors Meet in Paris to Pledge Aid to Palestinians

By Lisa Bryant
17 December 2007

Delegations from some 90 countries are meeting in Paris Monday to pledge financial aid to the Palestinian government and give support to renewed peace talks with Israel. Lisa Bryant has more from the French capital.

Donors hope to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to help finance a future Palestinian state, under discussion at last month's U.S-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

In opening remarks at this Paris donors' conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the funds raised would help construct a progressive and modern Palestinian state in the future. He said the donations should benefit the entire Palestinian territory, including Gaza, which is run by Hamas - an organization shunned by Washington and the Europeans.

Mr. Sarkozy directed a special appeal to Israelis and Palestinians to be partners of peace. He urged both sides not to let pass this moment to achieve it.

For his part, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on participants of some 90 countries attending the Paris conference to give generously to the Palestinian's future and to also seize the chance for a Middle East peace.

"Today I'm convinced we have better grounds for optimism than any time in the recent past," he said. "In the past month, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have restarted their bilateral discussions. They have shown courage and resolve in maintaining the dialogue in the face of extraordinary difficulties on the ground and they have now set out to negotiate a peace treaty in 2008."

The European Union is pledging $650 million in 2008 for the Palestinian territories. Mr. Sarkozy also announced a separate French pledge of $287 million over the next three years.

The Europeans hope other countries will also give generously to the Palestinian cause, particularly oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is hoping to secure $5.6 billion over three years to prevent economic hardship in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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