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Iran pledges $50 million to Palestinians

Palestinian Authority has said it's facing an economic crisis

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets Sunday with Hamas' exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal.

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran will give the Palestinian Authority $50 million and urged other Muslim countries to follow suit, Iran's top diplomat said Sunday.

Western countries have cut direct funding to the authority's Hamas-led government.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made the announcement Sunday at the end of a three-day conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Tehran, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Palestinian lawmaker Ahmed Baher announced the Iranian offer on Palestinian television late Sunday as well.

The United States, European Union and Israel call Hamas a terrorist organization. They have cut direct funding to the Hamas-led government that assumed power March 30, although humanitarian aid can be donated through non-governmental organizations.

Hamas has refused to recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.

In East Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli police said Sunday that they briefly detained three Palestinian parliament members and four Hamas operatives who were planning a Hamas rally in a village on the outskirts of the city.

A police spokesman said all seven -- including Palestinian parliament member Mohammed Abu Tehr -- were questioned and released on bail later Sunday.

Police warned them against holding the Hamas rally in the village of Sur Baher, which is located on the edge of Jerusalem, the spokesman said.

Economic crisis

The Palestinian Authority has said it is facing an economic crisis because Israel has halted the transfer of taxes and fees it collects for the authority, and the United States has asked authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return $50 million it contributed to prevent the money from falling into the hands of Hamas.

Mottaki called on other Islamic countries to support the Palestinian Authority, vowing that the suspension of aid would not break the Palestinians' will, IRNA reported.

The Tehran conference made headlines Friday when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told representatives of Middle Eastern and African governments attending the conference that Israel was "a dying tree, and soon its branches will be broken down."

Tehran is also at odds with U.S. and European governments over its pursuit of a uranium-enrichment program those countries fear could be used to produce nuclear weapons. Iran announced last week that it has produced a small amount of enriched uranium for civilian power, and says it does not want to produce a nuclear bomb. (Full story)

Ahmadinejad, whose fiery rhetoric has alarmed Western observers since his election in 2005, has called for Israel's destruction before. His previous call prompted the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning his comments.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, a member of Israel's ruling Kadima Party, said Ahmadinejad "will end up in the same way" as ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is facing a war-crimes tribunal in his own country.

"History knew how to denounce madmen and those who wave their sword, and all those who acted this way ended their careers accordingly," Peres told Israel Radio on Saturday.

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