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Mediators tell Palestinians to reform or lose aid
Updated: 2004-07-08 08:53

The quartet of Middle East mediators are "sick and tired" of Palestinians failing to carry out reforms and told them on Wednesday to act soon or risk losing international support and aid, diplomats said.

In another sign of growing pressure for change on besieged leader Yasser Arafat, results from grassroots elections for his Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip showed reformers sweeping the field, Fatah officials said.

Sapped by years of corruption and disorder as well as Israeli raids, Arafat's Palestinian Authority needs foreign help to fill a power vacuum when Israel quits the Gaza Strip next year or if it hopes to revive peace talks with the Jewish state.

Mediators tell Palestinians to reform or lose aid
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie (L) UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen (C) United States envoy David Satterfield (R) and Russia's Middle East envoy Alexander Kalugin (2nd R) leave Qurie's office after a meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah, July 7, 2004. The envoys from the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union told Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie in a meeting the international community had had enough of 'empty promises' about reform from Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. [Reuters]
But envoys from the United States, United Nations and European Union and Russia told Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie that the world had run out of patience with Arafat's "empty promises" of reform.

"If security reforms are not done, there will be no (more) international support and no funding from the international community," a senior diplomat close to the talks in the West Bank city of Ramallah told Reuters.

In a statement, the quartet said action was crucial to salvage a moribund "road map" peace plan for a Palestinian state on land captured by Israel in a 1967 war and to "seize the opportunity represented by Israel's Gaza withdrawal."

The demand for reforms echoed a similar call from Egypt, which is ready to help ensure security in Gaza if Arafat consolidates a dozen security forces to three and gives greater authority to the prime minister.

Mediators tell Palestinians to reform or lose aid
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is set to fire Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritsky on Sunday after he was exposed for trying to incriminate a party colleague in the run up to the primary elections. [AFP/File]

Egypt gave him until the end of August to make changes. But despite Arafat's promises, there is scant sign of action.

"Arafat has done nothing or very little ... There is total disillusion with the Palestinian Authority," the diplomat said.

The envoys did not meet Arafat, 75, largely confined to his smashed West Bank compound by the Israeli army since late 2001. Palestinian officials say Arafat is loath to give up all his powers as long as he remains cooped up by Israeli forces.

But he also faces growing calls for reform from within his own Fatah, a long-dominant nationalist movement whose decline has boosted the appeal of Islamic militant groups sworn to Israel's destruction.

Results so far in voting for Fatah district representatives in Gaza showed big gains for reformers.

A senior Fatah official backing reform said results showed a majority for followers of Gaza's reform-minded ex-security chief Mohammad Dahlan, who has often clashed with Arafat.

Some Fatah sources said Arafat -- still seen by many Palestinians as a symbol of the dream for statehood -- was dismayed by the Gaza results. They said he had tried to obstruct the organizers at the outset, but denied he had ordered a halt.

There was no meeting between the quartet representatives and the Israelis. But a senior government official said media reports that the Israelis had refused to meet them were untrue.

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