saudis donate $58m in 10 hours

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    Saudis donate $58m in 10 hours
    From correspondents in Riyadh
    January 7, 2005

    A SAUDI telethon launched overnight to raise aid for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster collected more than 167 million riyals ($58.24 million) in its first 10 hours, including a $US5.3 million ($6.94 million) dollar donation from King Fahd.

    The campaign began in the afternoon and was set to continue until tonight, said state-owned Channel One which is broadcasting the event.

    A group of Muslim scholars sat in the channel's studios inviting viewers to donate, saying that giving aid is one of the pillars of Islam.

    The first donation was announced after 45 minutes, and came from a Saudi national in the Eastern Province who pledged $US266,600 ($348,907).

    Minutes later, the board of directors of a bank offered $US533,300 ($697,945).

    The biggest donor from Saudi Arabia, however, has so far been the construction company Saudi Oger, owned by former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, which pledged $US6.7 million ($8.77 million).

    The kingdom's Crown Prince Abdullah gave $US2.7 million ($3.53 million), local television announced. Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz offered $US1.3 million ($1.7 million).

    A prominent Muslim scholar sitting on the panel expressed his disappointment with some large local banks each offering only between $US266,000 ($348,122) and $US800,000 ($1.05 million).

    "Schumacher, who is not a Muslim, donated $US10 million to the victims who are mostly Muslims," Sheikh Saeed al-Buraik said, referring to German Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, and urging banks to come forward and donate.

    Oil-rich Gulf Arab states, home to millions of Asian workers, have been criticised for pledging a mere $US70 million ($91.61 million) dollars to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster despite reaping seven times as much in crude revenues daily.

    Saudi Arabia, the world largest oil producer which also controls a quarter of proven global crude reserves, announced on Wednesday a tripling of its initial aid package of $US10 million ($13.09 million).

    As well as Saudi Arabia's $US30 million ($39.26 million) dollars, Kuwait pledged $US10 million ($13.09 million), the United Arab Emirates $US20 million ($26.17 million) and gas-rich Qatar $US10 million ($13.09 million), taking total pledges by the four oil producers to $US70 million ($91.61 million), relative to around $US500 million ($654.36 million) a day in oil revenues.

    A donation centre has also been set up at a stadium in the Saudi capital, while contributions can now also be made through ATM machines spread across the desert kingdom.

    Six trucks lined up outside the stadium were packed with donated blankets, clothes, powdered milk, rice and dates, while cars were crowded outside ready to unload more aid.

    "I hope my donation will reach those who deserve it regardless of their religion ... These are our brothers in humanity," donor Ibrahim al-Khalidi said after he dropped off a sack of clothes.

    His seven-year-old son, Raed, interrupted to add: "Yes, to anyone needy."

    But some had specific criteria for donating.

    Abdulmajeed, who was in his twenties, arrived in a small vehicle loaded with four sacks of rice and said his donation was "for his brothers in Islam".

    "I do not want it to go to non-Muslims ... That would waste the reward (from Allah)," he said.

    The December 26 quake and tidal waves which devastated many Asian countries killed some 150,000 people and left millions homeless.

    Agence France-Presse

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