Palestinian NGOs refuse to sign anti-terror pledge

Monday, September 29, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has been presented with a Cabinet regarded as loyal to chairman Yasser Arafat.

Meanwhile, Palestinian non-government organizations have refused to sign a U.S.-sponsored commitment that they will not transfer funds to individuals or groups that engage in attacks against Israeli civilians.

Palestinian sources said social welfare groups within the Palestinian Authority as well as independent NGOs have organized a campaign against signing a so-called anti-terror clause. The sources said the United States has demanded that Palestinian social welfare groups sign a commitment that they will not transfer money to those deemed terrorists.

PA Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qurei won approval for his Cabinet that included longtime allies of Arafat, Middle East Newsline reported. The Cabinet largely excluded supporters of former premier Mahmoud Abbas.

Mohammed Dahlan, outgoing security minister, was not named in Qurei's Cabinet. Over the weekend, about 1,000 Dahlan supporters, many of them carrying weapons, protested the decision in the Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis. Dahlan supporters also torched posters of Fatah Central Committee members who approved the Cabinet appointments.

So far, the sources said, about 30 NGOs have declared that they would not sign the anti-terror commitment. Many of the groups obtain funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and American philanthropies.

Maj. Gen. Nasser Yusef, a senior police official, was appointed interior minister in the proposed new government. Yusef has been a longtime critic of Arafat but was opposed by Dahlan when he served as security chief under Abbas.

In all, 15 Fatah members, including such stalwarts as Saeb Erekat, Yasser Abbed Rabbo, Nabil Shaath and Intissar Al Wazir, were included in the 24-member Cabinet. The Cabinet, which includes Salam Fayyad as finance minister, was expected to be relayed for approval to the Palestinian Legislative Council on Thursday.

On late Friday, two Israelis in a community south of Hebron were killed in an attack by a Palestinian insurgent released by Israel. Mahmoud Hamdan, a 22-year-old resident from the southern West Bank town of Dura, infiltrated the Israeli community of Negohot and shot dead two residents with an Israeli-issued M-16 semi-automatic assault rifle.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. Israeli military sources said Hamdan was released from an Israeli prison in August after serving a sentence for attempting a suicide operation.

Earlier this month, representatives of 29 NGOs in the area of the West Bank city of Bethlehem met and issued a statement that they would not cooperate with a U.S. AID demand not to transfer funding to any individual or group deemed terrorist. The meeting was attended by PA security and intelligence officials. The Interior Ministry regulates NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

AID has warned that the agency will halt funding to any NGO that does not sign the pledge.

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