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US Says Planned Palestinian Security Aid Includes No Lethal Hardware

Officials traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Middle East say a proposed $86-million U.S. aid package for security forces controlled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas includes no lethal military hardware or ammunition. Rice, on a whirlwind visit to the region, held talks with Mr. Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah Sunday, and will meet the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia Monday. VOA's David Gollust reports from Jerusalem.

Rice herself has expressed concern about the prospect that Palestinian moderates might some day be out-gunned by the forces of the militant Islamic Hamas movement.

But the Secretary and top aides insist the security aid package confirmed late last week would not exacerbate the intra-Palestinian conflict and includes no weapons or ammunition.

Hamas has bitterly complained about the plan and some members of Congress are apprehensive about what would be a major shift in U.S. aid policy toward the Palestinians.

But appearing alongside Abbas at a news conference in Ramallah, Rice said the aid would have human rights and other restrictions, and be phased in over time as part of a broader international effort to professionalize the Palestinian security services:

"Let me be very clear," said Condoleezza Rice. "It's not as if tomorrow there will be a U.S. contribution should the Congress approve it. Rather, this a train-and-equip program that will unfold over a period of time. I'm sure that President Abbas and his people will want to be attentive to the requirements of the plan, including attentive to concerns about human rights which are there in all of our train and equip programs around the world."

Rice is on a self-described listening tour aimed at finding ways to accelerate implementation of the 2003 international road map to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Progress has been stalled - most recently by the confrontation between Mr. Abbas and Hamas, which controls the Palestinian cabinet and has refused to accept international terms for talks with Israel.

Rice has said she is carrying no new U.S. plan or proposal to restore peace momentum. But at their news conference, Mr. Abbas made clear he opposes an idea raised by some Israeli officials for setting up an interim Palestinian state in areas his administration now controls.

"We have also noted to Minister Rice our refusal to any temporary or transitional solutions, including a state with temporary borders because we do not believe it to be a realistic choice that can be built upon," said Mahmoud Abbas. "We have also emphasized the importance of active and continuous mobilization by the various regional and international parties to put an end to the conflict."

Rice held a late-Sunday dinner meeting near Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah, who dispatched a Jordanian military helicopter to pick up the Secretary from a landing pad on the grounds of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

She begins a hectic day of travel Monday morning with a meeting here with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. She flies to the historic Egyptian city of Luxor on the Nile River to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. And late Monday she is to hold a dinner meeting in Riyadh with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.