Iran General NewsWe need help from everyone, not just Iran, insists...

We need help from everyone, not just Iran, insists Abbas


The Sunday Telegraph: Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, has dismissed Iranian overtures to take over funding for the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza if the West slashes financial support. The Sunday Telegraph

By Harry De Quetteville in Jerusalem and Philip Sherwell in Washington

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, has dismissed Iranian overtures to take over funding for the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza if the West slashes financial support.

But he also indicated that attempts last week by Condoleezza Rice, the America’s Secretary of State, to persuade Arab countries not to fund the Palestinian Authority could prove counter-productive. “We are asking for support from everyone – from Muslims, from Arabs and all over the world – and if we boycott the Arabs and the rest of the world and all is left is Iran, of course, we are going to lose,” he said. “Iran cannot respond to all the needs of the Palestinian people.”

Asked whether Teheran could fill a “foreign aid gap” if Arab countries shunned Hamas, which defeated his Fatah faction in last month’s elections but is termed a “terrorist” organisation by the United States and the European Union, Mr Abbas responded with scepticism.

“There are two questions to ask before saying yes or no. Can Iran respond to all the demands of the Palestinian people? And the second question: how will the money be channelled to the PA areas?” Mr Abbas was speaking to the broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby in an interview to be broadcast on ITV1 today.

The question of how to deal with the Hamas victory, which Mr Abbas conceded was “unexpected”, has thrown Western policy in the Middle East into confusion.

Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader who visited Iran and met its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, last week, has reportedly been promised $1 billion (£570 million) from Teheran for Hamas if the group remained both anti-Israeli and anti-Western.

Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, declared that Iran would “definitely help this government financially in order to resist America’s cruelty”.

The prospect of strengthened links between Teheran and Hamas is alarming Western capitals.

Miss Rice was rebuffed last week when she urged Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two key US allies and regional powers, to end funding for the Palestinian Authority if a Hamas-led cabinet takes control without renouncing violence and accepting Israel’s right to exist.

Britain and its European allies fear that such an uncompromising stance could drive the new Palestinian government into the arms of Iran. They are instead looking at whether to make payments directly to the office of Mr Abbas after Hamas takes control.

British officials have also suggested that a Hamas government must be gradually encouraged to end terror and accept the existence of Israel rather that being faced with an ultimatum to do so.

About 80 per cent of the Palestinian Authority’s £70 million monthly budget is spent on the salaries of a bloated list of 140,000 public employees.

But the pay that flows through civil servants keeps many families afloat, and bankruptcy could spark widespread unrest if it results in growing poverty.

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