Published April 16, 2006
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran will give the financially strapped Palestinian Authority $50 million in aid, state-run television reported Sunday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced the aid package during a conference held in Tehran in support of the Palestinians.
The promise of funds comes a few days after the United States and Europe announced they were cutting aid to the government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
Mottaki said the decision was made based on Iran's firm and long-standing policy of supporting the Palestinians, the broadcast said.
"Cutting the West's financial aid to Palestine would not affect the will of the Palestinian people," he was quoted as saying.
This was the first time that Iran has specified a figure in aid to the Palestinians. In the past, it has said that it would give the Palestinian Authority funds to compensate for the lack of funding from the West.
The United States and the European Union have said that aid to the Palestinians would stop if Hamas refused to recognize Israel and renounce violence. The United States and EU consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Israel also has halted the monthly transfer of about $55 million in taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians.
Khaled Mashaal, the political leader of Hamas, said in Tehran on Saturday that his government would "never recognize Israel."
With its coffers empty, the Palestinian government already is two weeks late in paying March salaries for its 140,000 employees, and it is unclear when it will have the needed funds. The Palestinian Authority is the largest employer in the West Bank and Gaza, sustaining about one-third of the population.