Can't find what you're looking for? Try Google Search.

Rice backs concept of Abbas forces on Gaza border

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday signaled U.S. support for the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas taking charge of the Gaza Strip's breached border with Egypt.

Rice said a Palestinian Authority presence might help bring "some order" to the Rafah border crossing between the two since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded across after Hamas militants blew up part of the border last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks during a news conference at a military airport base in Rionegro near Medellin in this January 25, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez)

"There would be many details that would have to be worked out and I can't comment on any specific detail because this is obviously a very complex -- would be a very complex operation in itself," Rice told reporters when asked whether Washington supported Abbas' forces taking charge of the border.

"But we have said that in concept it should be supported and that the parties should look to see if that might be one way to handle the situation," she said at a news conference after meeting Australia's foreign minister.

U.S.-backed Abbas' Fatah movement and Hamas are in a power struggle for control of the Palestinian Territory. Abbas runs just the West Bank. The Islamist group Hamas, which won elections against Fatah two years ago, took control of Gaza in June.

The fall of the Rafah wall is seen as making U.S. efforts even more difficult to curb the influence of Hamas and bolster Abbas.

Hamas has rejected Abbas' proposal to deploy his own, Western-trained forces at the crossing along with European Union monitors. Officials from both sides are expected in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Rice said she had discussed the issue with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday night.

Egypt is playing a delicate role in the conflict, trying to balance U.S. demands to crack down on Hamas but also not wanting to be seen as aiding an Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The top U.S. diplomat helped broker a Rafah crossing deal between the Israelis and Palestinians in November 2005, but that deal crumbled almost as soon as it was signed.

Last week Palestinians poured into Egypt from Gaza to stock up on food that has been in short supply due to a blockade, which Israel said was tightened in response to cross border rocket attacks.

Rice said Hamas, which the United States views as a terrorist group and has isolated economically and politically, should do everything it could to stop the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel.

The United States has asked Israel to avert a humanitarian disaster in Gaza but has squarely blamed Hamas for the current border crisis.

"We have been very clear that there should be no humanitarian cost to the innocent people of Gaza who simply have the bad fortune to be in Gaza after Hamas launched its illegal coup against the legitimate institutions of the Palestinian Authority," said Rice, referring to Hamas' takeover of Gaza last year.

No comments: