Palestinian reforms said to be paralyzed
RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Fledgling Palestinian reforms are at a standstill after last month's Israeli siege on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound, and crucial changes in finance and security have virtually ceased, according to people who know about the efforts.
Palestinian legislators gave in last weekend to an appeal from Arafat that likely will further paralyze reforms. After a stormy discussion, legislative council members agreed to give Arafat another month to name a new Cabinet.
Last month, in a surprising challenge to Arafat that was seen as the spark of democratic initiative, the council threatened a no-confidence vote unless Arafat named a new Cabinet, cleaned of corruption, in days. Such an initiative now seems stunted by circumstances, council members said.
"The siege had a very, very negative effort," said Nabil Amr, a member of the legislative council who had publicly challenged Arafat. "It just didn't postpone steps and measures. It has created a whole new set of hard issues."
Reform at the Finance Ministry, one of the most troubled agencies, has stopped in its tracks because of a lack of money, a situation that worsened dramatically during the 10-day siege and has not eased in the week since the Israeli incursion ended.
The situation is so dire that Finance Minister Salem Fayyad has traveled to Washington to appeal to Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for an infusion of funds, sources said. Fayyad, who was also trapped inside the compound by the siege, is seeking U.S. muscle to persuade Israel to release $700 million in tax revenue withheld in retribution for terror attacks by Palestinian militants.
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