The Arab governments are considering providing the new Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories with millions of dollars in funding despite US opposition, the head of the Arab League said Sunday.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned Iran and other Middle East powers of the consequences for the region of giving money to a Palestinian government led by Hamas. She also expressed doubt that the group could raise badly needed international financing unless it changes its policies.
Foreign ministers from several Arab countries will be meeting in Algiers on Monday to work out plans to send some $50 million (â‚¬42.15 million) monthly to the Palestinian Authority, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said.
The money is part of a funding project the Arab League approved last year - before Hamas's election victory in January - during a summit in Algiers. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already provided funding to the financially strapped Palestinian Authority and more money is on the way, Moussa said.
But a final decision on funding is not expected until Arab leaders meet in a summit next month in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
The United States considers Hamas a terrorist group, and Washington has ruled out direct funding for a Hamas-led government. Rice reiterated Friday that the United States would continue to finance humanitarian projects for the Palestinians.
Mohammad Sobeih, Moussa's deputy, said the Arab League expects the Arab governments to brush aside the US 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 most of its approximately $1.9 billion (â‚¬1.6 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 are expected to appeal to Arab states and Iran.
On Saturday, a Hamas lawmaker in Gaza told a public rally that the influential Muslim Brotherhood movement is ready to provide the new Hamas-led administration with money. Marwan Aburas, was quoted by the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat as saying that the Brotherhood plans to give a quarter of its new revenues to help the new Hamas government.
But a Brotherhood leader downplayed Aburas' remarks.
"Helping the Palestinian people is the responsibility of Arabs, Muslims and the international community, they should not relinquish this responsibility," Essam el-Erian told the Associated Press.
"The Brotherhood has always helped (the Palestinians) and will continue to do so but this is a bigger issue and the world should not abandon the Palestinian people," he said.