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Israel, Palestinian Officials Discuss Arming Palestinian Police - 2004-08-08

Israeli and Palestinian security officials were meeting late Sunday to discuss allowing Palestinian police to carry arms. The proposal is aimed at restoring law and order in some areas where there has recently been internal violence and political unrest.

The Palestinian minister for negotiations, Saeb Erekat, said the meeting would focus on the deployment of Palestinian police in three West Bank cities.

He said Palestinian officials would make a formal request to their Israeli counterparts for the Palestinian police to be given the right to carry weapons.

The announcement of the meeting came after the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said a final decision on the matter would have to be made by his Cabinet.

Avi Dichter, the head of Israel's Shin Bet, the secret police, told the Cabinet that Israel would not be giving the Palestinian police more weapons, but merely allowing them to carry those they already possess.

The Shin Bet is in the process of drawing up a list of Palestinian police officers that would be allowed to carry guns. Israeli officials said only those with no record of involvement in terrorism would be chosen.

The head of Israel's army, General Moshe Ya'alon, said permission should be granted, or Israel could be blamed for allowing anarchy to reign in Palestinian areas.

At the same time, he said, the decision would not prevent the Israeli army from continuing to operate inside Palestinian areas in a bid to combat Palestinian terrorism.