Hamas seeks support from Arab summit

Mashaal wants generous and quick financial support from Kuwait meeting.

hamas flags 88 (photo credit: )
hamas flags 88
(photo credit: )
On the eve of an Arab summit, Hamas pressed Arab leaders on Sunday to increase their financial support to Palestinians and provide it fast, saying its government will need around $170 million a month, mostly for salaries. But reaching that level of giving will be difficult. The $170 million a month figure is more than triple the amount Arab League members promised in previous summits, and they have already failed to meet those pledges. "This of course is a big sum, and it is bigger than what Arab summits in Amman and Beirut had approved," Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' political chief, told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to this small oil-rich state. "We hope that our Arab brothers would provide this support and provide it quickly because unfortunately there has been a shortage and lack of commitment," he said. Many Palestinians who work for the Palestinian Authority have not received their February salaries yet, Mashaal said, adding that he has assured Arab leaders the funds will be protected from corruption and will not be mixed with Hamas money. Hamas has formed a Cabinet following its overwhelming victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, sweeping the governing Fatah party from power. It is due to be sworn in Thursday. Palestinians will be represented at the Monday and Tuesday summit in Khartoum by President Mahmoud Abbas and the outgoing government. League members promised in 2002 to give $50 million a month to the Palestinians, with each country assigned an amount to give. But Saudi Arabia the only one to have paid its allotment regularly. Kuwait and other Gulf countries have given as well, but still short of their pledges, while some countries paid once or twice or never at all. Since 2003, Arab countries have given $761 million - only 30 percent of the promised amount over that period. Besides "financial commitments," which will be decided in the summit, Mashaal said the new Hamas-led Cabinet would like Arab governments to fund and invest in building hospitals and schools in the Palestinian territories. Arab governments face pressure from the United States to stop funding any Palestinian government headed by Hamas, which the United States and Europe consider a terror group. Mashaal said Hamas had no problem talking to American or European officials, but it will not recognize Israel or make any concessions. Any disagreement between the group and the Palestinian president could be resolved through dialogue, and there will be no Palestinian infighting, the political chief told reporters. Abbas hinted on Saturday that he was prepared to bring down Hamas' incoming government if the group's anti-Israel policies hurt the Palestinian people. Hamas will "take into consideration" advice it heard from Kuwait's emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, to maintain Palestinian unity and to "deal realistically" with the challenges facing Palestinians, Mashaal said. Kuwait adheres to the official Arab position on Israel which offered full recognition in exchange for full withdrawal from Arab lands. Hamas advocates violence and refuses to recognize the pre-1967 borders of Israel.