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Clinton To Visit Israel, West Bank Next Week

MATTI FRIEDMAN   02/23/09 11:48 PM ET   AP

Hillary

JERUSALEM — The United States will likely donate more than $900 million for the reconstruction of Gaza, a U.S. official said Monday, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepared to attend a donors conference for the war-ravaged territory next week.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said earlier Monday that Clinton will visit Israel and the West Bank during the first week of March for her first trip to the region as America's top diplomat.

Clinton said during her Asia trip this month that she would attend an international donors conference in Egypt on March 2 to discuss reconstruction in Gaza.

She provided no other details, but a U.S. official in the United States said Monday that the Obama administration's donation will likely top $900 million in humanitarian and rebuilding aid to the Palestinian Authority to help Gaza recover from Israel's offensive against Hamas last month.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the donation had not received final approval, said the exact amount was still to be determined.

The official added that the aid would not go to Hamas. The U.S. recognizes the West Bank-based government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and has no formal contacts with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which runs a separate Palestinian administration in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli officials, meanwhile, said Clinton will arrive in Israel on March 2 for meetings with the country's top leaders. Israel is currently ruled by a caretaker government as Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu cobbles together a new coalition.

The Israeli officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit had not been announced by the State Department, which has not released Clinton's schedule for next week.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Clinton also would visit the West Bank during her stay.

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Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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