February 22, 2009 / 8:06 PM / 11 years ago

Gulf states launch Arab aid plan to rebuild Gaza

RIYADH, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Gulf Arab states proposed on Sunday a joint plan for Arab aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip.

The extent of the funding has not been revealed but a Gulf Arab official said $1.25 billion has been pledged by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The plan is to put aid from Arab donors under the joint management of a committee made up of contributors and the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank, Gulf Arab ministers said in a statement after a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"The goal is for this programme to be implemented fast and minutely planned and also for it to respond to the needs of our Palestinian brethren in Gaza as soon as possible," Oman’s minister in charge of foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, told reporters.

Israel’s three-week offensive against Gaza created new divisions in Arab ranks, pitting Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their allies against Qatar, Iran, Syria and their allies.

Qatar hosted the leaders of Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas at a conference to support Gaza. It suspended its ties with Israel and called for the withdrawal of a 2002 Arab peace initiative sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

Under the joint plan, an office may be opened in Gaza to ease the execution of projects and the entry to the densely populated strip of material needed for reconstruction.

Details of the plan are to be outlined by a meeting on Saturday before an expected conference of international donors in Cairo on March 2.

"Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Libya also plan to contribute (funding)," the official said on condition of anonymity. (Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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