U.S. set to restore direct aid to Palestinians

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

The United States plans to restore direct civilian and security aid to the Palestinian Authority which had been cut off during the conflict with Israel.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration plans to transfer several hundred million dollars to the PA in an effort to ensure development of both Palestinian civilian and security sectors. They said the plan seeks to ensure that the PA will not use the aid to help Palestinian insurgents.

PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas requested the restoration of direct U.S. aid during his meeting with President George Bush in Jordan last month, officials said. The United States cut off help to the PA in the first months of the Palestinian insurgency war with Israel, which began in September 2000.

For the last two years, the United States directed funds to the Palestinians through the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, Middle East Newsline reported.

Congress has restricted U.S. aid and linked any help to the PA to an end to the war against Israel.

Officials said the plan would be discussed with Congress as well as U.S. security agencies such as the CIA. They said direct U.S. aid is meant to bolster the Abbas government and reduce the influence of Hamas.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Tuesday that the PA has carried out reforms that largely ensure the transparency of funds. He said any U.S. aid would be directed through PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad.

"The finances are now under the stewardship of a new finance minister and now largely transparent and therefore accountable to the Palestinian people," Boucher said. So, at this point, we haven't made any decision about direct aid to the Palestinian Authority. But the Palestinian Authority has requested such assistance, and it's under consideration. If we decided to go forward with this, we'd also have to consult first with our Congress."

Officials said much of the proposed U.S. aid would help rebuild Palestinian security forces. They said other aid would promote development and improve social services meant to reduce the influence of Hamas's large charity and school network in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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