Chirac calls for Palestinian aid

French President Jacques Chirac has called for international aid to the Palestinians to continue, despite the recent election victory of Hamas.

Mr Chirac said the World Bank should set up a fund to pay the salaries of Palestinian officials.

It comes after the US and EU cut off direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, which is struggling to pay the wages of more than 100,000 workers.

Mr Chirac was speaking after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Washington and the EU define Hamas as a terrorist organisation and say they will not consider relations with a PA under its control unless it renounces violence and recognises Israel.

Escrow account

Following talks with Mr Abbas in Paris, Mr Chirac suggested the World Bank could pay PA officials directly, thereby bypassing Hamas.

The creation of a special account to receive funds intended to pay the salaries could be studied urgently, Mr Chirac's office quoted the president as saying.

Mr Chirac said he would raise the issue with members of the Middle East peace quartet - the EU, US, UN and Russia - at a meeting on 9 May.

The president also called for the continuation of humanitarian and technical aid to the Palestinians "for human and political reasons".