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US Faults Arafat in Palestinian Political Crisis - 2004-07-19

The United States Monday accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of hampering the consolidation of security services and other steps needed to bring order to the increasingly chaotic situation in the Gaza and the West Bank.

Officials here say the intra-Palestinian clashes in Gaza since Sunday only underline the need for reforms, including creation of a single security service, and they are blaming Mr. Arafat for impeding a process that could restore order and lead to creation of a Palestinian state.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. diplomats are monitoring the political turmoil in the Gaza and the West Bank with deep concern. While taking no position on Saturday's resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, which was refused by Mr. Arafat, Mr. Boucher made clear the United States is sympathetic to Mr. Qureia's frustration over the lack of security and a centralized authority.

"We think that the security services need to be consolidated, that the governmental authority, the prime minister in the government, need to have authority over the security services as well as the other institutions of government. That's a process that Chairman Arafat has hampered, and appears to be continuing to hamper to this day," he said.

Mr. Boucher noted that both Mr. Qureia and his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas, were thwarted in efforts to consolidate governmental power.

He said the Palestinians should establish the institutions needed to run a state, and curb violence in Gaza as Israel prepares to end its presence there under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "disengagement" plan.

The United States has supported the Sharon plan, which also calls for dismantling some Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as a way to restoring momentum toward peace under the international "road map" to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.