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Donor's Pledge $4.48 Billion in New Gaza Aid

Representatives from donor nations meeting in Egypt have pledged more than $4.4 billion in new aid to help rebuild the war-torn Gaza Strip after the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said international donors meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh have pledged more than $5 billion for Gaza reconstruction.

The Egyptian foreign minister says the participants at the conference pledged the sum of $4.481 billion dollars in fresh money at Monday's session ... and he says if you add previous pledges that some donor nations have reiterated, the figure comes to $5.2 billion, a figure that well exceeded expectations.

It is nearly twice the amount sought by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed aid money for Gaza must be accompanied by a "comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors."

"By providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, we also aim to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized," said Hillary Clinton. "A state that is a responsible partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbors, and is accountable to its people. A state that Palestinians everywhere can be proud of, and is respected worldwide. This is the Palestinian state we all envision. This is the Palestinian state we have an obligation to help create."

Clinton said the United States $300 million in humanitarian aid for Gaza, in addition to $600 million for the Palestinian Authority, which is expected to use it to help pay the salaries of civil servants.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told al Arabiya TV that rebuilding Gaza would be "difficult and fool-hardy, so long as peace and security do not prevail" in the territory.

Conference host Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said it is his "priority to reach a truce between Israel and the Palestinians," despite the multiple setbacks in negotiations Egypt has been mediating.

He says Palestinians, as well as Arab and Muslim states, can not bear the climate of limbo, in which peace never quite arrives, for much longer. The situation in the region, he emphasizes, is alarming and could explode, more than at any time in the past, abetted by terrorism that thrives on delayed peace and regional forces that seek to drag the region into the abyss.

Israel threatened Sunday to launch a punishing new round of retaliatory strikes against Gaza if there is not a halt to rocket attacks against Israeli territory that have continued since the Israeli incursion ended in January.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy said making peace with Israel was the duty of all "responsible Palestinians" and excuses are no longer acceptable.

"It is a matter of will," he said. "Do we want to meet, just to talk or do we want to take the risk of making peace? Some tell me that the conditions [for peace] are not ripe, he argues. Well, if we wait for the conditions to be ripe to talk peace, we will be waiting a long time, and in the meantime we will be giving the initiative to extremists, everywhere."

Among the extremists Mr. Sarkozy was referring to is the Islamic Hamas movement, which controls Gaza. International donors want Hamas to play no part in spending funds pledged to rebuild Gaza.