Monday, February 20, 2006

OIC Mulls Extending Aid to Sanction-Gripped Palestine

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Organisation of the Islamic Conference [OIC] is considering extending financial aid to Palestine that faces the prospect of a financial squeeze following Hamas' recent victory in parliamentary elections.

"I have already spoken to some leaders about it. We want to help the Palestinians," said the Malaysian Premier who is also the OIC chairman.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Abdullah urged those who had helped the Palestinian people before this to continue doing so, notwithstanding the leadership change in their country

Israel stopped the payment of about $50 million a month in tax money to the Palestinian Authority [PA], collected on behalf of the Palestinians. The Americans too had asked for the return of some US$50 million in aid meant for infrastructure projects in Gaza, as it did not want the money to be used by a Hamas-led government.

Commenting on Hamas Abdullah said the Palestinians had their own reasons in voting for a Hamas-led government. He said he believed that Hamas could be a responsible government, which would not like to see the Palestinian people living in fear of continuing violence. He added that Hamas had been doing a lot of social service and the Palestinian people recognised this.

Asked whether he would try to persuade Hamas to live in peaceful co-existence with the state of Israel, Abdullah said: "Well, I have written to them asking them to take advantage of this [the situation] and also to pursue the peace process." The prime minister said he believed that they would see the merit in the suggestions put forward to them.

Hamas has reportedly refused to renounce violence and the right of Israel to exist.

Abdullah said that all Palestinians aspired for peace as they had endured sufferings for too long. "Give them a chance to live in peace and when they are peaceful, they will know how to live in peace with others too," he said.

The interview also touched on Muslim furor surrounding the publications of insulting caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in mostly European newspapers. Abdullah said that Muslims were unhappy with what was happening to their fellow brothers and sisters in Iraq and Palestine, and this feeling was intensified with the reproductions of the cartoons, which were seen as an act of provocation.

Although the incident had created a lot of mistrust, he believed that the damage was not irrevocable. “It must not allow us to believe that nothing can be done to create a situation where feelings and relationships can be improved," he said.

Abdullah said what was needed was for both sides of the divide to create a new sense of mutual confidence and respect.

No comments: