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U.S. to send $59 million to Palestinians' Abbas

Story Highlights

• State Department ready to transfer funds to Palestinian president
• U.S. refuses to fund Hamas part of coalition government
• Amount reduced from $86 million because of concern over militants
• Funding covers training for security force, upgrade for border crossing
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly $60 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinians has been cleared for transfer to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said Tuesday.

The funding comprises $43 million for non-lethal training and equipment for Abbas' security forces and $16 million for upgrades at the Karni crossing into northern Gaza, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack announced.

The United States is sending the money directly to Abbas to bypass the portion of the government controlled by the militant group Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group.

McCormack said the State Department notified Congress on March 23 that it was ready to transfer the money, and then waited the mandatory 15 days.

Aid of $86 million was originally planned, but that was reduced after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced she wanted to ensure the money did not go to elements of the Palestinian national security forces that do not report directly to Abbas or where the command and control structure is unclear.

Last year, Hamas won the Palestinian elections, ending decades of rule by the Fatah party. Hamas took control of the parliament and the prime minister post, although Fatah's Abbas maintained the title of president.

Because Hamas refused to accept Israel and call for an end to terrorist attacks, the United States and the European Union cut off funding to the Palestinian government, although both continued to support Palestinians through non-governmental organizations.

The cutoff paralyzed the Palestinian government, which was already struggling financially because of widespread corruption -- corruption that Hamas had vowed to end.

Sending aid directly to Abbas gets around the problem of funding Hamas.


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