Palestinians refuse $15m unblocked funds

The Palestinians have refused an Israeli payment of $14,7-million in unblocked customs duties and taxes because of conditions attached to its use, a senior Israeli official said on Wednesday.

The official, who asked not to be named, said newly appointed Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayad refused to take the sum, part of $430-million frozen by Israel for fear it would be used for anti-Israeli attacks.

Israel has sought a commitment that the money would not be given to the Palestinian police or Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.

The official said they wanted to deposit it in an account managed directly by Fayad.

“Salam Fayad doesn’t want to accept the money because he refuses to guarantee us, as agreed, that the money would not finance Palestinian security services implicated in terrorism or end up in the pockets of Palestinian leaders,” the official said.

“We are ready to unblock the money only to provide humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinian population,” he said.

A representative for Fayad said he was in a meeting and unavailable for comment.

The transfer of the 70-million shekels ($14,7-million) was announced last week and was to have taken place Monday.

The money was collected as taxes and customs on products imported to the Palestinian territories. It has been frozen virtually since the start of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, 22 months ago.

Israel at first had asked for the establishment of an international watchdog mechanism to monitor the use of the unblocked funds but later abandoned the demand.
- Sapa-AFP

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