Jewish World Review July 9, 2002 / 29 Tamuz, 5762

U.S. seeks to defund Palestinian Authority

By Eli J. Lake | (UPI) The United States is quietly pushing the European Union and Arab States to stop funding the Palestinian Authority in the aftermath of President Bush's call last month for the Palestinian people to seek new and different leadership.

Two Bush administration officials told United Press International Monday that Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns pitched the proposal to his counterparts in the EU, U.N. and Russia, last week in a working level meeting for what has come to be called the "Quartet."

"We are looking to create a new Palestinian Authority," one senior U.S. official told United Press International Monday. "This would mean a change in bank accounts to pay salaries for civil servants, provide humanitarian relief, provide security and plan elections."

According to these officials, the White House soon after the president's speech on June 25 issued orders to the State Department to attempt to persuade the European Union and other Arab States to de-fund the current Palestinian Authority. But efforts so far have not yielded any diplomatic success. One State Department official Monday said of the European reaction, "They are not enthused."

Throughout the Intifada, which began Sept. 28, 2000, the European Union has funded the Palestinian Authority to the tune of approximately 10 million euros per month. This assistance was temporarily suspended in May following allegations from the Israelis that the EU money was going to finance terror, but was resumed on June 20, after Europe concluded that the Israeli claims were spurious.

Chris Patten, chief of the EU's External Relations, said at the time, "After scrupulous examination of all the allegations that have been made, I can report to you today that there is no evidence for EU funds used for other purposes than those agreed. There is no reason to state that EU money has financed terrorism or bought weapons."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher announced Monday that plans were underway for Secretary of State Colin Powell to meet with his counterparts from the Quartet. Other State Department officials said it was likely that representatives from Saudi Arabia and Jordan would be invited to the meeting next week as well.

Speaking of Burns' meetings last week, Boucher said, "There was broad agreement on the importance of real reform of the Palestinian political structures, the economy, the legal system, the security apparatus and the creation of an environment in which democracy and a civil society can grow and flourish."

But for now the Europeans see these reforms as taking place through the Palestinian Authority. As Patten said on June 19, "Let me repeat once more that if there is to be a Palestinian State there needs has to be a Palestinian Authority. I cannot see how it could help anybody to destroy the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure or undermine its financial base."

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JWR contributor Eli J. Lake is State Department Correspondent for United Press International. Comment by clicking here.


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