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Annan calls for increased aid to organization that assists Palestinian refugees

Increased aid to Palestinian refugees would contribute to stability and hope in the Middle East even as a final, just and practical solution to the problem is sought with renewed vigour after recent positive developments, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.Recent developments in the region, particularly the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip, gave rise to new hope that the peace process could be put back on track, Mr. Annan told the hosts and donors of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main organization for humanitarian aid to those refugees, at their meeting in Amman Jordan.That had not yet happened, he noted, saying that all interested parties must try to ensure that this period of hope does not end, as others had, in bitter disappointment.”As we do that, the work of UNRWA and what it represents to the four generations of Palestine refugees is indispensable,” he said in the message, delivered by Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of UNRWA.Paying tribute to both the resourcefulness of the refugees and the generosity of the donors, he said that “UNRWA’s programmes in education, health care, microfinance and other aspects of human development have ensured that the basic humanitarian and human development needs of the refugees are addressed, and have given them hope that their plight is not forgotten.”Marking the fact that the meeting was taking place in Jordan, Mr. Annan reiterated his sympathy for the family of those killed and wounded in the suicide bombings of three Amman hotels one week ago.”Such acts can never be condoned, but must incite us all to confront terrorism and work for peaceful solutions to conflict, in the Near East and throughout the world,” he said.Later today, after a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Annan reiterated his call for international support, in the context of the agreement on Gaza access that was signed with Israel yesterday.“As you know, the Quartet and the United Nations have been working very closely with President Abbas to assist in this process,” he said. “And I think it is important that the international community maintain its assistance and interest in this problem.” Praising Mr. Abbas, Mr. Annan reported that the President affirmed that reforms of the Authority will go forward and elections will proceed as planned, with assistance from the UN.Mr. Annan also had a short trilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom. He congratulated them for reaching yesterday’s agreement and said he hoped that all sides will press ahead with implementing it, adding: “This is only a beginning of better days to come.”

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