Egypt offers 400 troops to train Palestinian security in Gaza

Special to World
Friday, April 16, 2004

CAIRO Egypt has offered to deploy up to 400 troops in the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian officials said the troops would consist of advisers who would train Palestinian Authority security forces. They said the proposal was relayed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in his meetings with senior U.S. officials earlier this week.

The officials said the Egyptian troops would be deployed largely in the southern Gaza Strip in wake of an Israeli withdrawal, planned for completion by the end of 2005. The troops would help PA security forces patrol the border town of Rafah and stop the weapons smuggling from Egypt.

The United States has approved in principle the Egyptian offer, officials said.

They said Egypt has been designated by the Bush administration as the key Arab security trainer of the PA.

The exact mission of the Egyptian force has not yet been determined, officials said. They said the United States wants the Egyptian force to participate in Palestinian counter-insurgency missions, while Mubarak has insisted that Cairo will serve only in a capacity role.

The United States will not contribute to any international security force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, officials said. They said Washington has been concerned that any U.S. military presence in PA areas could become an immediate target of insurgency attack.

On Thursday, Sharon released his withdrawal plan, which called for the presence of British, Egyptian and Jordanian security experts in the Gaza Strip. The plan said Israel insists that any foreign presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip requires approval of the Jewish state. Britain has already been training and equipping PA security forces in the West Bank city of Jericho.

The Sharon plan said Israel will maintain and perhaps expand its military presence along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip while transfer the international crossing point near Rafah to a point two kilometers south. At a later stage, Israel will examine the evacuation of this area contingent upon "the extent of Egypt's cooperation in the creation of a more reliable arrangement."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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