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U.S. to Lift Embargo on Palestinian Government

The U.S. State Department said Monday it would lift an economic and political embargo on the Palestinian government following the expulsion of Hamas militants. Foreign policy analysts examine the development.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Aid for the Palestinians. We start with some background narrated by NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the announcement at the State Department this afternoon. After a week of civil warfare tore the Palestinian unity government in two, with Hamas controlling Gaza, and Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, ruling the West Bank.

    Rice threw United States' support and financial aid behind Abbas, who swore in a new government yesterday. Today's announcement marks a reversal from 18 months ago, when the U.S., European Union and Israel blocked funds to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas won legislative elections.

    CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: We intend to lift our financial restrictions on the Palestinian government, which has accepted previous agreements with Israel and rejects the path of violence. This will enable the American people and American financial institutions to resume normal economic and commercial ties with the Palestinian government.

    We are also reviewing our democracy and development assistance to help the new government build institutions and infrastructure that will improve life for Palestinians, that will provide essential services, better roads, and clean drinking water to people in need.

    We have previously identified up to $86 million to support President Abbas' efforts to build responsible security forces. Now, in light of the new Palestinian government, we will be working with Congress to restructure that assistance so that it can be used effectively.

  • JOURNALIST:

    Can Mahmoud Abbas really negotiate on behalf of all his people if he's effectively only representing half of them?

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    Well, let's remember that Mahmoud Abbas is the president of all of the Palestinian people through the Palestinian Authority. He is also the head of the PLO. These are the institutions of the Palestinians as a whole.

  • JOURNALIST:

    Fatah leaders have been corrupt in the past. By resuming aid, do you think that there's a danger that you're propping up a system and leaders that have been proved to be corrupt and a system that has been proved in the past not to work?

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    Well, first of all, we have been very strong advocates of political reform in the Palestinian political space, including Fatah reform. And that needs to proceed, and I'm certain that it will. But I think, if you look at this government, and particularly if you look at its prime minister, you see someone who has a reputation for integrity, who has a reputation for having accountability.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The announcement came a day before Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House. Olmert also has urged more outreach to and support for Abbas' new government.

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