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    Donors Pledge $7.4 Billion for Palestinians

    Lisa Bryant

    Donor nations pledged $7.4 billion for the Palestinian cause at a conference in Paris. The question now is what to do with the money? Lisa Bryant spoke with the head of the United States Agency for International Development and has this report from Paris.

    The United States pledged $555 million for next year for the Palestinian territories - the second only to the pledge of the European Union. According to USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore, most of the money already has been earmarked for specific needs.

    That includes $150 million in budget assistance for the cash-strapped Palestinian authorities and another $200 million for development projects. U.S. aid dollars also go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. Much of the American pledge had been announced before the Paris conference but have not been approved by the U.S. Congress.

    "We have a number of projects that are currently under way in health and agricultural livelihoods, micro-enterprises, schools, as well as sanitation and water. And, about 25 million in security assistance," said Fore.

    The $7.4 billion pledged at the donor conference is spread out over a three-year period and aims to help nurture the reality of a future Palestinian state - a concept now under discussion in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

    Ms. Fore also talked about the need for microenterprise projects and ways to build up the Palestinian economy and businesses. However, all of this remains problematical, given the Israeli blockage of the Gaza Strip and difficulties for Palestinians to move around the West Bank and do business outside its territories.

    But the USAID chief says she believes things will improve, as a result of the talks now under way.

    "There's lots of discussion about how to open up and where to open up because business does have to have the free flow of goods and services. That's very much at the top of the agenda," she said.

    Ms. Fore also touched briefly on new warnings by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization about an alarming dwindling of world food supplies and about American aid commitments to climate change, after the talks in Bali, Indonesia. She says it is important to balance food security needs with those for growing biofuels for energy. And, she says a number of new projects to fight global warming are anticipated, but still await USAID's 2009 fiscal budget.

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