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Pressure on Netanyahu to hand cash to PA

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was facing down demands this week from international leaders to release £63 million in tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority.

    American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly urged Mr Netanyahu in a telephone call on Monday to transfer the money, withheld last month after UNESCO recognition of Palestinian membership.

    Tony Blair, the Quartet's Middle East envoy, criticised Israel for not releasing the funds, while European Union Ambassador Andrew Stanley said that the continuing freeze could affect the PA's ability to maintain security.

    Mr Netanyahu has stated that he believes it is in Israeli interests to hand over Palestinian money, but does not ha ve a majority in the security-diplomatic cabinet to approve the transfer.

    He is also awaiting the outcome of yesterday's scheduled discussions between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal on the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

    Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that unless Hamas accepted the Quartet's conditions for involvement in peace talks, Israel would transfer not "even one dime" to any unity government. The Islamist movement would have to agree to recognise Israel and renounce violence.

    Israel collects the tax money for the PA under the Oslo Accords, which goes towards the salaries of Palestinian officials including security forces.

    Meanwhile, UNESCO voted Syria to be on its human rights committee this week.

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