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March 01, 2003

Palestinian Assets 'a Mess,' Official Says

The New York Times carries this article that indicates that Israeli charges on misuse of Palestinian funds is true JERUSALEM, Feb. 28 — The Palestinian Authority's top finance official said today that he had identified $600 million in Authority assets in 79 commercial ventures, including money that he said appeared to have given rise to Israeli accusations of slush funds controlled by Mr. Arafat and others.

"Of all the issues in public finance that cause us to have a bad name, this probably is the one that had the biggest neon sign on it," said the finance minister, Salam Fayyad, a former official of the International Monetary Fund who has been praised by American and Israeli officials as an energetic reformer.

In an interview here, Mr. Fayyad described a jumble of individually managed investments of public money in concerns ranging from Canadian biopharmaceuticals to Algerian cellphones.

While declining to discuss in detail the performance of officials who previously controlled the investments, Mr. Fayyad said the money would now be managed by a publicly accountable board of directors of the new Palestine Investment Fund. [more]