U.S. to stop funding PA development projects, Jerusalem told

By Aluf Benn

Haaretz

Adar 23, 5766

The Bush administration has decided to halt funding for an infrastructure development project in the Palestinian Authority, and will provide the Palestinians with humanitarian aid only, American officials told security officials and the Foreign Ministry.

The new policy was implemented to make sure U.S. foreign aid money does not reach a Hamas-led government, and to prevent administration officials from having to make contact with representatives of a terror organization.

Incoming Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh said yesterday that he was calling a special session of parliament next week to vote on the new Hamas cabinet. See story, Page 2.

A government source in Jerusalem said the United States rejected Israeli requests that it continue funding a few projects in the territories, such as the new sewage system in Hebron, saying that all contact with the Hamas government was prohibited. The United States will, however, continue funding a project to install new X-ray machines at checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.

James Kunder, the assistant administrator for Asia and the Near East at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), arrived in Israel yesterday to discuss the formation of the Hamas government. Kunder met with representatives of Palestinian organizations that receive American aid, and is set to meet today with Israeli security officials and visit the Karni crossing near Gaza.

The United States has been pressuring Israel over the last few days to reopen the crossing, despite warnings that Palestinians are planning to carry out a terror attack there. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, and the U.S. security coordinator, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, told Israeli officials that it's important to open the Karni crossing before the Hamas cabinet takes power.

Jones and Dayton said that if the crossing remains closed, Israel will be held responsible for a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, and said it was important to make sure the crossing was operating while there was still someone to talk to on the Palestinian side. They said the U.S. administration will cut off all contact with the Palestinian government after Hamas takes power.

Crisis looming

Meanwhile, the head of the UN relief agency in the Palestinian Authority warned yesterday of the risk of a humanitarian and security crisis, and urged EU countries to give a chance to a new Hamas-led government.

Karen AbuZayd, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said she hoped the situation "will be corrected after the Israeli elections."