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Fayyad Presses for Fulfillment of Palestinian Aid Pledges

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, at a meeting Monday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, urged donor countries to make good on pledges to assist the Palestinian Authority. Only a fraction of the more than $7 billion promised at the Paris donors conference last December has been delivered. VOA's David Gollust reports from our U.N. Bureau.

The Paris donors meeting yielded $7.7 billion in pledges. But Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad told a gathering of donor nations and the Middle East principals that less than $1.4 billion has been delivered, leaving the Ramallah-based administration with a unfunded budget gap for the last quarter of this year.

Fayyad, an economist and former finance minister of the Palestinian Authority, became prime minister last year with the collapse of a Hamas-led unity government after the militant Islamic group took over the Gaza strip.

At a U.N. meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, or AHLC, which is made up of donor countries and the principals in the Middle East conflict, Fayyad said he was grateful for the aid received thus far but that the authority needs additional help to continue functioning the rest of the year.

He also said Palestinian economic progress has been hampered by what he said was Israel's failure to fulfill commitments from last year's Annapolis conference to dismantle security barriers and roadblocks in the West Bank.

Similarly, he said Israeli controls on Gaza checkpoints - though they have been eased in recent months - have all but choked off business activity in the densely-populated Gaza strip.

"As you know, there are no exports out of Gaza," said Salam Fayyad. "Virtually none, and depriving our people there - maybe 1.5 million of them - of the income that is associated with export activity. So the situation there continues to be dreadful. The misery index is extremely high, has not been higher in recent memory and definitely something that can only be corrected if the passage operation is restored."

Israeli Foreign Minister Director-General Aharon Abramowitz, who appeared alongside Fayyad an AHLC news conference, said Israel cannot ease Gaza controls as long as Hamas fails to abide by terms of an Egyptian-brokered truce accord reached in June.

"The Palestinians in Gaza are not standing to their commitments to the Egyptians," said Aharon Abramowitz. " Smuggling of weapons and ammunition into Gaza continues. Attacks on Israel continue. Only yesterday, we had Kassam [rocket] attacks against Israel. So with such a situation in Gaza, you cannot expect that the life there is going to be as normal as a place where you do not have attacks from."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined in the meeting as did former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is the envoy of the international Middle East Quartet, which consists of the United States the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. The Quartet holds a ministerial-level meeting here at the U.N. on Friday.

Blair conceded that political upheaval in Israel and the looming change of U.S. administrations make it unclear whether an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord can be reached by year's end as envisaged at the Annapolis conference. But he said there are no grounds for excessive pessimism, given that the two sides remain engaged on the core issues of the peace process backed by a supportive international community.