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U.S. offers to finance new Palestinian security force

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, May 12, 2003

RAMALLAH The United States has offered to finance the restructuring of Palestinian Authority security forces.

PA and U.S. officials said the offer was relayed during the visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell to Ramallah on Sunday. They said Powell offered to allocate a large amount of money to equip, train and pay salaries of a reconstituted PA security force.

Officials said the United States wants the PA to merge several of its 13 security agencies. They said Powell has not insisted that the U.S. aid be conditioned on a restructuring of the PA security forces. Instead, he raised the prospect of immediate U.S. help.

Under the U.S. offer, officials said, the CIA would expand training and funding of the Preventive Security Apparatus. The PSA is said to be under the control of Abbas, who also serves as interior minister.

"We will be doing everything we can to assist him [Abbas] and provide him with support," Powell said. "U.S. organizations will be helping rebuild their security apparatus, and he has made the commitment."

U.S. officials said Powell held a long discussion with Abbas on Sunday on security issues. They said Abbas was specific on what he planned to do to stop Palestinian attacks against Israel.

Earlier this year, the CIA as well as Egypt and Jordan began to train PA security agents in the West Bank city of Jericho. Egypt's security agency has reviewed the PA security infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and its needs to return to normal operation.

"There may be other agencies of the United States government that might be able to play a role or other international agencies who have experience, knowledge and capacity in security matters and police matters, and might be able to play a role," Powell said.

Officials said the CIA has discussed with PA security chiefs the prospect of obtaining such equipment as night-vision systems, signals intelligence gathering, advanced light weapons and training. They said much of the equipment had been provided in the mid-1990s as part of U.S. security aid to the PA but was destroyed or seized in Israeli military operations in 2002.

The Bush administration would not ask Congress for the aid, officials said. They said the aid would be taken from special allocations for the CIA. Powell said the United States will provide $50 million to bolster the Palestinian economy. Washington already provides the Palestinians with $75 million in humanitarian aid.

On Monday, Israel renewed some of the restrictions it had pledged to lift the previous day. Israeli security sources said the Gaza Strip was again ordered closed amid an alert of a Palestinian insurgency attack.

The security sources said aides of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat have employed an insurgency squad to kill Israelis in the Ramallah area. The aides said the squad was sent on Sunday to ambush an Israeli motorist and then return to Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah.

In Nablus, Israeli troops captured a member of the Arafat-headed Fatah movement said to have been planning a suicide bombing in Israel.

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