|Palestinian Authority To Receive $20 Million in U.S. Aid
White House says it wants to help Palestinians hold elections
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington File White House Correspondent
Washington -- The Bush administration is providing $20 million in direct budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to help the Palestinian leadership address some of its financial issues as it seeks to hold presidential elections January 9, 2005, and put institutions in place, said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.
"[W]e want to do everything we can to help the Palestinian people as they move forward on holding elections, and this contribution of financial assistance hopefully will send a signal to other nations as well that they should help the Palestinian people," McClellan said at the December 8 White House briefing.
Earlier in the day, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and North African Affairs William Burns announced the $20 million support and said the United States would also continue to provide a "substantial" overall assistance package to the Palestinians, which totaled about $200 million in 2004, and would be giving $3.5 million for technical assistance and international observers for the upcoming election.
President Bush issued a December 8 memorandum to Secretary of State Colin Powell authorizing a waiver of U.S. restrictions on providing funds to the Palestinian Authority, thereby allowing the PA to receive the $20 million in direct budgetary support.
Press Secretary McClellan said the funds for the PA will finance utility services. The PA is in "a serious financial situation right now," McClellan said, and the financial assistance sends a message that "we want to help as they move forward on elections and as they move forward on putting institutions in place for a viable state to emerge."
At the State Department press briefing, deputy spokesman Adam Ereli described the aid as "a meaningful gesture of support for the Palestinians" and said it was only the second time direct U.S. aid to the PA has been allowed.
According to press reports, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad will oversee the $20 million. McClellan said the Bush administration has "great confidence" in Fayyad, who McClellan said has put a fully transparent system in place.
"[W]e have great confidence in the ability that those funds will go where they're supposed to be going," McClellan said.
The press secretary also said the United States is pleased that the Palestinians and Israel have reached an agreement over the framework and logistics for holding the January 9, 2005, elections, describing it as "a positive and constructive step forward."
According to press reports, the elections will be held using the same procedures as the Palestinian elections of 1996, which will include allowing Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem to vote.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)