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Donors Pledge Billions for Palestinian Recovery

International donors pledged $7.4 billion over the next three years to help the cashed-strapped Palestinian government. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from the Paris donors' conference.

Spread out over a three-year period, the $7.4-billion pledged far exceeded the initial $5.6 billion requested by Palestinian leaders at the start of the one-day meeting. The money is to help the Palestinian government pay its immediate expenses - and consolidate a Palestinian dream of a separate state now under discussion in peace talks with Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad thanked participants from 90 nations for their generosity.

"We see it as a vote of confidence in our plan going forward," said Salam Fayyad. "The plan which was the basis for this conference as you know tried to cover our vision in terms of what our needs are for the next three years, both in the institutional sphere and the development sphere and it also included coverage of the reform effort that we intend to undertake in those three years."

The European Union pledged the largest donation of $650 million for 2008 alone, with the United States earmarking $555 million for the same period. A number of other countries, including Saudi Arabia and conference host France, are pledging several hundred million dollars over three-year periods.

Mr. Fayyad said most of the aid would initially go to reducing his government's huge budget deficit. It would gradually be shifted to pay for development projects.

"The plan covers the needs of our people both in the Gaza strip and the West

Bank in all areas of the West Ban and Gaza including refugee camps for sure," he said. "What we need is here and [the] division [of the money] is for all areas."

While Mr. Fayyad governs the West Bank, the other Palestinian territory, Gaza is currently being governed by the Hamas party, which the United States, Israel and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Paris conference was the last hope to save the Palestinian government from bankruptcy.