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France: Resume aid to Palestinians

France’s foreign minister called for the resumption of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.”We must resume direct assistance to the Palestinian national unity government as soon as it is inaugurated,” Dominique de Villepin said in remarks prepared for a speech Friday at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. “We must also resume aid to cooperation projects in order to reestablish the conditions for real development.” Israel, backed by the United States, rejects a resumption of aid to the Palestinian Authority, saying the agreement that established the unity government between Hamas and Fatah falls well short of the West’s minimum requirements that the government recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace agreements. Last year’s election of Hamas, a terrorist group, precipitated a cutoff of direct aid, but it was more than made up for by increases in aid that bypass the government. De Villepin also called for an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His statements are the latest sign of a rift between the Europeans and Israel and the United States on how to deal with the Palestinians. Israel will not deal with ministers in a Palestinian Authority unity government, whatever their affiliation; France and Britain have said they will deal with those affiliated with Fatah; the United States is still considering the matter. All parties deal with the office of P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, a relative moderate from Fatah.