Rice pledges 'security co-ordinator' to help Abbas

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The Independent Online

The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today promised active American involvement in Middle East peace-making and said the Palestinian Authority would receive more than $40 million in aid in the next three months.

She also plans to appoint a "security co-ordinator" to supervise reform of Palestinian security force.

"It really is to provide a focal point for training, equipping, helping Palestinians build their forces, and also for monitoring, and if necessary to help the parties on security matters," Ms Rice said. "But .. we believe the best security cooperation is between the parties themselves."

Speaking at a joint news conference with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Ms Rice said: "This is a moment for hope."

She praised Mr Abbas, saying he is "following through on a mandate" to restore law and order in the Palestinian areas and promised US support.

Ms Rice said that of some $350 million in additional aid to the Palestinians promised last week by George Bush, more than $40 million would be handed out in the coming months for a quick action program to create jobs and rebuild infrastructure.

Israel today opened the key freight crossing into the Gaza Strip after several weeks of closure, the latest in a series of confidence-building measures.

The Karni crossing, Gaza's lifeline, was closed on 13 January after Palestinian militants attacked Israeli workers there, killing six.

Since then, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has obtained a promise from militants to halt attacks on Israel and there has been a sharp drop in violence. Also, Palestinian security forces have deployed in the Gaza Strip.