Monday, December 25, 2006
U.S., European officials visit Fatah training base in Jordan
"United States and European officials have visited a base in Jordan where Fatah is training troops to reinforce Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in any showdown with Hamas, sources familiar with the visits said on Monday.
Up to 1,000 members of the Jordan-based Badr Brigade would initially be deployed in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as part of U.S.-backed efforts to strengthen the moderate Palestinian leader's hold on power.
The Bush administration is seeking congressional support to provide up to $100 million to bolster Abbas' presidential guard and expand his control over strategic border crossings.
The United States recently sent a mid-level U.S. official to visit a Badr training facility in Jordan for informal discussions, a European diplomat and other sources said.
Sources familiar with the plan said U.S. money would not be used to provide the presidential guard with "lethal" equipment.
But Israeli officials say Washington has been instrumental in helping organize shipments of guns and ammunition to the presidential guard from Egypt and Jordan.
The sources said Badr's deployment may not start for several months because the force needs substantial amounts of new military equipment and training. Badr would reinforce Abbas's presidential guard and other Fatah-dominated security services.
U.S. officials declined to comment on the matter."