Iran Provides Money to Palestinian Government

Iran is giving the Hamas-led Palestinian government $50 million in aid. Renee Montagne speaks with reporter Roxana Saberi in Tehran about the donation's importance. They also talk about Iran's resistance to international pressure to stop its nuclear program.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR New. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Iran is coming to the aid of the Palestinian government, saying it will provide $50 million to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The pledge came yesterday at the end of a three-day Palestinian conference in Tehran. It would help cover a shortfall now that Western countries have cut off aid.

This is the first time Iran has agreed to give money to the Palestinian Authority. Roxana Saberi is Tehran correspondent for Feature Story News and she joins us. Hello.

Ms. ROXANA SABERI (Tehran Correspondent, Feature Story News): Hello.

MONTAGNE: How significant is this pledge?

Ms. SABERI: The significance, I think, is more so that it's the first time Iran is announcing a specific amount that it's planning to give to the Palestinian government; although it's not clear that this money is going to go to Hamas or to the Palestinian Authority.

Iran's Foreign Mminister said yesterday at this conference that Iran will be giving the money to the Palestinian government and people. Until now, any time that the United States has accused Iran of giving weaponry or training to Palestinian resistance groups, Iran has always said it gives groups like Hamas only moral and spiritual support. But at the same time, this $50 million is really not that significant, if you consider the amount of money that the Palestinian government needs to function.

MONTAGNE: Not terribly significant, because they need many more millions. Could this just be a first installment?

Ms. SABERI: Well it's not clear what Iran's plans are in the future. The head of Hamas, Koled Nasald(ph), who was also at this conference over the weekend, has said that this government needs $170 million a month to run. And I spoke to a member of Iran's Parliament, he's on the security commission here, and he said that it's clear that this $50 million that Iran is pledging is not enough, but Iran expects all Muslims of the world to unite and help the Palestinians. And also the foreign minister of Iran had said yesterday that Tehran is calling on other Muslims countries to follow its move. And he also announced that Iran will be setting up a bank account for other countries to contribute.

MONTAGNE: Tell us about this Palestinian conference that was being held there in Tehran.

Ms. SABERI: It was to garner support for the Palestinians. There were members from various countries' parliaments, from all over the world, a lot of Arab countries, and South African, also countries like Malaysia, Indonesia. They planned to talk about raising money for the Palestinians, but this was the only really concrete figure that we received.

MONTAGNE: Turning now to the increasingly hostile wars of wars between Tehran and the U.S. on Iran's nuclear enrichment activities, what are you seeing there, as far as the reaction from the people? For instance, what newspapers are writing.

Ms. SABERI: The newspapers themselves would never say that they oppose Iran and pursing peaceful nuclear energy. But they might differ on how they think that their country should go about it. For example, the hard line newspapers say Iran should not give in to compromise, while the more moderate reformist newspapers say that Iran should always be willing to negotiate, and not risk too much isolation in the world.

Among the people, there are some who think it's great that Iran has been able to enrich its own uranium. They believe that Iran should continue down this path, even if it means increasing international pressure by the United States and by Europeans. There are other Iranians who say no, this is going to risk increasing isolation of Iran by the international community. And there are others who say it's fine if Iran has made nuclear fuel, but it should not enrich this fuel to the level that would be able to be used for nuclear weapons.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. SABERI: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: Roxanna Saberi is Tehran correspondent for Feature Story News, speaking from Tehran.

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