Arab nations and Russia have offered aid money to the new Palestinian Authority to help cover the shortfall left by the pull-out of U.S. and European Union assistance, as well as the illegal seizure of Palestinian tax money by Israeli authorities.

 But some in the Arab world have been critical of the meager support offered by the wealthier Arab nations, calling it a humiliation of the Palestinian people, who are already being "punished by the West" simply for exercising their democratic right to vote.

"Palestinians not only defend an Islamic and Arab state, but defend all countries in the region against expansionist plans of the Zionist regime," said Iranian minister Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in Syria on Monday.

Pointing to suspension of the West and US financial aid for the Palestinian people, he added, "This help was very meager. It is a humiliation for the Islamic world to expect for the West’s help for those whose wealth are looted."  He said it would be also inappropriate for the West to raise the issue of its help while it achieved its wealth from "looting" the natural resources of the Islamic and Third World states.

He added, "There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. If each Muslim person pays just one dollar per year for the Palestinians, 1.5 billion dollars will be collected. This figure will be more than the [now-withdrawn] support from Europe and the US."

Iran has offered $50 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, which is the equivalent of one month worth of the Palestinian tax money currently seized by Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the aid was Iran’s duty as a friend of the Palestinians. Since its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has been at odds with the United States and has refused to recognise Israel.

Washington and the European Union froze aid to the Hamas-led government because the Islamist group did not recognise Israel, renounce violence or abide by interim peace agreements.

Palestinians are dependent on foreign aid totalling more than $1 billion a year.

Mottaki called on Muslims around the world to support the Palestinians.

"The Islamic world should help the new Palestinian government to overcome its current problems," he said.

Separately the Syrian First Vice-President Farouk al-Shara said in Tehran on the same day that the Syrian government is to open several banking accounts to collect material aid for the Palestinian government and people.

The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ordered opening of several banking accounts for the Palestinians in order to prevent a human catastrophe in the Israeli-occupied lands, al-Shara said.

Earlier last week Russia also said Moscow will grant the Palestinian National Authority urgent financial aid.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the pledge to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a telephone call.

A Russian foreign ministry statement said: “Mahmoud Abbas stated his high appreciation of Russia’s intent, confirmed by Sergei Lavrov, to grant the Palestinian Authority an urgent financial aid in the nearest future.”  Lavrov said on Tuesday that withholding aid to the Palestinians was a mistake.

However, “Hamas should… recognize Israel and sit down at the negotiating table. But for that it’s necessary to work with them,” Lavrov added.

Earlier Russian President Vladimir Putin said after receiving the credentials of a new Palestinian ambassador in Moscow: “Russia is ready to further render assistance to the leadership of Palestine, Palestinian Government and Palestinian administration headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”