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Saudis Raise $55M for Palestinians

Saudis Raise $55M for Palestinians
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia raised more than $55 million for Palestinians in a government-organized telethon that ended Friday, half of it from a prince whose donation for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks was rejected last fall by New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal donated $27 million to the fund. An hour before the end of the 11-hour telethon, the committee had collected a total of $56.7 million, the daily Arab News reported.

In October, Giuliani first accepted a check for $10 million from Alwaleed for a New York relief fund, then returned it when he learned about Alwaleed's statement calling on the United States to ``re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.''

In a statement Friday, Alwaleed said $13.5 million of his donation will go to rebuilding Palestinian infrastructure destroyed by Israeli forces. The other half will be in form of goods, including 100 jeeps and 2 million pieces of clothing.

Saudis from all walks of life called during the telethon to pledge contributions to the fund-raising campaign ordered by King Fahd, with donations ranging from a princess' Rolls Royce to children's pocket change.

The telethon, broadcast live, was an attempt by the government to show support for the Palestinians while channeling the intense rage among many Saudis over Israel's offensive in the West Bank away from illegal demonstrations.

The event aimed to help relatives of ``martyrs,'' a word that has been used by the Palestinians to refer to anyone killed by Israelis or in operations against Israel, including suicide bombers.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington said the term meant Palestinians ``victimized by Israeli terror and violence'' and that any suggestion Saudis were giving money to suicide bombers was ``baseless and false.''

Children also donated school bags -- and a few slingshots. One man gave money he had saved for dental treatment, another said he would give a kidney for a Palestinian who needs it and a few unemployed Saudis offered to donate blood.

Committee spokesman Said al-Harithi said a convoy of 100 vehicles loaded with relief aid for the Palestinians would soon be sent via Jordan.

The Qatar-based Arab satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera reported that Saudi security forces cordoned off the area around the American consulate in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran and were trying to prevent people from protesting following Friday prayers.

Last week, thousands of protesters rallied in Dhahran, 230 miles northeast of the capital Riyadh, despite a ban on such demonstrations.

In the English-language Arab News on Friday, columnist Nourah Abdul Aziz al-Khereiji wrote that Arabs should do more than just donate money.

``Our people ... demand a boycott of Israel and America,'' she said. ``They want a jihad (holy war) in Palestine.''

``You could supply arms to (Palestinians) and ignore arms being smuggled to them,'' she wrote. ``In the end, a day will come when you will be convinced of the need for a physical jihad.''

The telethon was part of a wave of Arab support for the Palestinians amid Israel's offensive.

In the United Arab Emirates, a fund-raising campaign organized by the state-owned media company raised more than $12.5 million within a few hours. Mobile phone messages were being sent urging users to participate.

A telethon Tuesday in Dubai, another of the seven emirates, raised more than $35 million, and more than $8.2 million was raised in the neighboring Gulf state of Qatar on Wednesday.



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