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U.S. to give Palestinians $10 million in medical aid

EU proposes to send direct aid, bypassing Hamas government

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United States will provide $10 million in new medical assistance to Palestinians, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.

Rice and other members of the so-called Mideast Quartet, meeting at the United Nations in New York, also endorsed a European Union proposal to temporarily deliver aid directly to the Palestinian people, bypassing the Hamas-led government.

The $10 million in U.S. aid will come from money the United States took back from the Palestinians after Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, won Palestinian elections this year.

A senior State Department official said the money includes $4 million in medicine and medical equipment for clinics run by nongovernmental organizations, which could start to be delivered as early as Wednesday. The remaining $6 million will be delivered through UNICEF, the U.N. children's fund.

Rice announced the program Tuesday after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the other representatives of the Mideast Quartet -- Russia and the European Union.

Details of what types of aid will be provided under the European Union's proposed "temporary mechanism" and how it will be delivered remain to be decided.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's external affairs commissioner, said the aid would likely be focused on "basic human needs," such as health and education, and it would be distributed directly to Palestinians, not through the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority.

The World Bank, United Nations and other donors would be invited to take part, she said.

Ferrero-Waldner said the mechanism would be developed "as speedily as possible."

"It's not a matter of days, but I do hope it is a matter of weeks," she said.

The aid program would be reviewed after three months.

Rice told reporters at a news conference the plan was designed to be temporary because the goal is not "to transfer responsibility for meeting the needs of the Palestinian people from its government to the international community."

"It is to provide assistance to the Palestinian people so that they do not suffer deprivation," she said.

"The international community is trying to respond," Rice said. "But ultimately, the resolution to this is a Palestinian government that accepts its responsibilities for governing, that accepts the Quartet requirements and the norms that would help us get to a two-state solution."

The United States and the European Union, which consider Hamas a terrorist organization, cut off direct nonhumanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas swept to victory in January.

At the same time, the United States more than doubled money for basic humanitarian needs, such as health, food and education, to $240 million over several years. It is to be funneled through nongovernmental organizations and U.N. agencies.

The European Union has also continued to provide money through nongovernmental organizations.

The United States, European Union and other Palestinian donors have said they won't deal with the Hamas-led government unless it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and adheres to agreements with Israel brokered by the previous Palestinian government.

Arab states have expressed concern the continued cutoff of aid will lead to a collapse of the Palestinian Authority and increase violence in Gaza and the West Bank.

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia attended Tuesday's meeting to express those views.

The United States and its allies in the Mideast Quartet have differed over Palestinian aid.

The United States has been lukewarm to an EU proposal to send money to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is not a member of Hamas, to pay for basic humanitarian needs.

A French proposal to pay the salaries of about 160,000 Palestinian government workers has also run into U.S. resistance.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Quartet leaders did not address whether either of those ideas might be included in the proposed temporary mechanism.

U.S. officials said the $10 million program announced Tuesday by Rice will be funded in part by the nearly $30 million that the United States requested back from the Palestinian Authority earlier this year.

In all, the U.S. has canceled or suspended $411 million in aid out of concern the money could help the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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