Hamas ministers get partial salaries from Abbas

JERUSALEM - Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, his cabinet and security services he controls received part of their unpaid wages this week through President Mahmoud Abbas' office, officials said today.

The payments -- totalling about half of one month's salary -- could mark a major setback in a US-led campaign to deny funds to the leaders of the government controlled by the Islamic militant group, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction. US officials were not immediately available to comment.

"The payment was made to all government employees, from the ministers down to the lowest ranking employee," a senior Palestinian Finance Ministry official told Reuters.

Haniyeh this week received half of his April salary, approximately US$1,700, ($2,730) and aides said he donated it to the family of a Palestinian girl killed by an Israeli tank shell.

"The ministers of the government were paid," said Salah al-Bardaweel, spokesman for the Hamas parliament bloc in the Gaza Strip.

He said Abbas' office authorised payments to Hamas lawmakers but that the money has yet to arrive in their accounts.

Lawmakers' pay goes through the Amman-based Arab Bank, which has refused to deal with the Hamas-led government.

The Bush administration has threatened to take punitive action against banks that transfer funds to the Hamas-led government, its ministers and Hamas lawmakers. Washington designates Hamas a "terrorist" organisation.

A US-led embargo has prevented the Hamas administration from paying salaries to 165,000 government workers since March. Many employees have received some cash smuggled in by Hamas ministers.

- REUTERS

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