Tags: Palestinian | President | Abbas | Seeks | Bolter | Fatah

Palestinian President Abbas Seeks to Bolter Fatah

Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM

JERUSALEM -- President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Israel for permission to bring Palestinian forces based in Jordan to the West Bank to try to shore up his control after Hamas's Gaza takeover, Israeli officials said on Tuesday.

Abbas met on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, seeking support for the emergency government he appointed in the occupied West Bank after dismissing a unity cabinet led by Hamas Islamists.

"The Palestinians put in a request yesterday to transfer the Badr Brigade from Jordan to the West Bank," a senior Israeli government official told Reuters.

"It is being evaluated and a decision will be made soon."

Abbas's prime minister, Salam Fayyad, would neither confirm nor deny the request. He told Reuters in the West Bank: "I cannot really comment on that for the time being."

Israel wants Abbas to do more to rein in militants and has been considering providing his forces with additional weapons.

Abbas, leader of the Fatah faction which dominates the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), had initially intended to send the Badr Brigade into the Gaza Strip to try to stop militants from firing makeshift rockets into Israel.

That deployment did not start and appears unlikely anytime soon with Hamas in firm control over the coastal territory.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the Badr forces, like all Palestinians, should be allowed to return to their lands -- but not deployed to fight Hamas.

"We hope they will come to protect the security of our people and not to be used by Abbas to punish Hamas," he said.

By some accounts, the Badr Brigade has less than 1,000 well-trained fighters. Others say it has up to 2,000 men.

Not to be confused with a force of the same name set up by Iraqi Shi'ites in the 1980s, the brigade was formed in the 1960s as part of the PLO's Palestinian Liberation Army in exile.

Western officials have visited the main Badr training base in Jordan but a formal evaluation has not been made. Some have questioned its preparedness for action against militant groups.

Analysts say Badr is Fatah's best-trained and best-equipped fighting force, aside from Abbas's Presidential Guard. Badr is considered to be more loyal to Fatah than other forces. It also has strong ties to the Jordanian king.

The U.S. security coordinator between Israel and the Palestinians, Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, has yet to take a public position on a Badr deployment in the West Bank.

At Abbas's request, the brigade would reinforce the Presidential Guard and other Fatah-dominated security services.

The United States has so far not provided Badr troops with training or equipment, but has assisted with coordinating preparations for their deployment, sources said.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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JERUSALEM -- President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Israel for permission to bring Palestinian forces based in Jordan to the West Bank to try to shore up his control after Hamas's Gaza takeover, Israeli officials said on Tuesday. Abbas met on Monday with Israeli Prime...
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2007-00-26
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM
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