RAMALLAH Ñ The Palestinian Authority has pledged to maintain plans
to merge additional security units as part of a U.S.-sponsored reform plan.
PA officials said the mergers would include unifying the commands of
several security agencies under the responsibility of the Interior Ministry.
For the last four months, the ministry was operated by Security Affairs
Minister Mohammed Dahlan, though under the formal portfolio of Prime
Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas resigned last week and PA Chairman has appointed a replacement and
ordered a Cabinet reshuffle. The most likely candidate to replace Dahlan is
Gen. Nasser Yusef, a senior police commander in the Gaza Strip.
The reform process launched by Dahlan was sought to unify what for more
than a decade were separate branches of security agencies in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. Officials said the mergers has already included the
Security Apparatus, civil defense forces and passport control department.
On Sept. 4, the Interior Ministry said its security organizations have
been unified. The ministry cited the police force, with 14,618 officers,
most of them in the West Bank, the Preventive Security Apparatus, with 5,152
officers, the civil defense forces, with 727 members.
The Interior Ministry as well as Dahlan's Security Affairs Ministry have
received an estimated $200 million from the United States to facilitate the
reform of security agencies. Dahlan controls three of the PA's 13 security
agencies. The rest is under the direct control of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat
and has not adopted any part of the reform plan.
Officials said Dahlan's security reform plan would be overseen by the
new PA national security council. Arafat has appointed a 14-member council,
which he heads, and includes Dahlan, Brig. Gen. Jibril Rajoub and heads of
the security agencies.
"The Palestinian leadership has decided to unify all the Palestinian
security, police and intelligence networks within the framework of a council
called the National Security Council," Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh
said on Thursday.
"This council will meet immediately to put forward a work plan that will
guarantee the unity and effectiveness of the security forces apparatus."