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US to Boost Assistance for Moderate Palestinians

News reports indicate the United States intends to pledge about $500 million in aid next week to the moderate government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

News agencies say government officials who asked not to be named discussed the aid package unofficially late Friday.

The reports say U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will announce the pledge, a 25 percent increase from funds President Bush already has promised, at a conference beginning Monday in Paris.

The United States, European and Arab donor countries are attending the conference on Palestinian reform. Rice also is scheduled to meet Sunday with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The Palestinian Authority, led by President Abbas, is expected to ask for a total of $5.6 billion in aid at the Paris meeting.

The conference follows last month's Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, Maryland, where Palestinian and Israeli leaders agreed to restart peace negotiations after a seven-year freeze.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.