Cuts Aid Plan for Palestinian Security Forces
(VOA) — U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Congress
the Bush administration is reducing a proposed aid package
for Palestinian security forces. There had been concern in
Congress that some
U.S. funds might have end up in the hands of the militant Islamic movement
administration originally asked for $86 million for training
and other non-lethal aid for security forces loyal to Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen.
the advent of the new Palestinian unity government bringing
together Hamas and Mr. Abbas’ mainstream Fatah party, the aid
plan is being trimmed back to about $50 million and focused
on the Abbas presidential guard.
Rice disclosed the move in an appearance before a
House appropriations subcommittee, which had frozen the initial
request out of concern that some of the security aid might
benefit Hamas, which the U.S. lists as a terrorist group.
the package is being reduced to better assure transparency
and accountability for the U.S. money, but she said the administration
still considers it essential to counter the strength of Hamas
and other Palestinian radicals:
very strongly that we do need to support development of security
forces that are loyal to those that accept the Quartet principles,
because I’m quite certain that those who do not accept it will
continue to build their security forces," said Condoleezza
The new Palestinian
government, like its Hamas-led predecessor, has refused to
explicitly accept Israel’s right to exist and renounce terrorism
as demanded by the Quartet – the United States, the European
Union, Russia and the United Nations.
refused to deal with the new government. But in a split with
its ally, the United States says it will have contacts with
non-Hamas members of the cabinet, among them the U.S.-educated
Finance Minister Salam Fayyad.
has drawn some congressional criticism but Rice defended it
in her subcommittee testimony:
will nonetheless not suspend our contacts with those in the
Palestinian government who have a record of fighting for peace," she
said. "I think that keeps a way to continue to influence
the development of this Palestinian unity government. And we
will of course continue to work with Abu Mazen who is himself
committed to this cause."
also differences among Quartet members about contacts with
the unity government, with Moscow long having direct discussions
with holdover Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Rice and other principals of the Quartet spoke by telephone
on the new government. But it took some 48 hours to
come up with a joint statement on the conference call, with
officials here citing disputes over wording.
issued said the Quartet reaffirmed its previous pronouncements
on the need for a Palestinian government committed to non-violence,
recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements,
including the Quartet’s 2003 peace road map.
But it also
said the new government will be measured not only on the basis
of its composition and platform but also its actions.
reflected a statement by chief diplomat Javier
Solana of the European Union, and a belief among some European
officials that Hamas should be credited for largely refraining
from acts of anti-Israel violence since entering government
early last year.