Aid pledges to Palestinians increased to $7.7 billion

RAMALLAH, West Bank – International donors have pledged $7.7 billion in aid to the Palestinians over the next three years, more than initially reported, a Palestinian government minister said on Thursday.

Forty percent will be spent on the Gaza Strip, which Hamas Islamists seized in June, said Samir Abdallah, who serves as planning and labor minister in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s government.

Donors met in Paris last month as part of a U.S.-led campaign to restart peace talks between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Those talks got under way this week despite public skepticism about the chances of a deal.

Officials at the conference initially estimated that pledges totaled $7.4 billion but a subsequent audit showed another $300 million was pledged, Abdallah said. The European Union, Saudi Arabia and France have started providing funds.

Under the Palestinian plan, $1.7 billion will be used to fund development projects, he said.

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