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No, it wasn't a conspiracy, it was snafu, the government concluded in a report on the Israel Electric Corporation's rolling brownouts lw.

Some sources had darkly implicated the wos, intimating that they had deliberately allowed systems to fail in order to protest oncoming reforms. Not so, the report concludes: the problem was systemic breakdown caused by the failure to plan ahead properly. Drastic measures must be taken to prevent a reocurrence, the report concluded.

The interim report was submitted Friday to National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer by the special inquiry panel he appointed to examine the outages.

Panel members continued over the weekend to review data, tour generating plants and question workers.

The direct reasons for the failures were two unexpected malfunctions at the Rothenberg and Orot Rabin power stations. There was a serious systemic failure, the report states - but does not criticize anyone individually.

The report clears IEC employees of suspicions that they were behind the failures, saying that there was no guiding hand at work.

If anything the workers handled the faults professionally and quickly, the report says. Malfunctions would not have caused the power outages, says the report, if the IEC had run the rest of the electricity sector properly.

Two power stations, the report says, which could have produced 600 megawatts between them, were not brought on line because of "licensing issues." This refers to the reform of the electricty sector, which the IEC is fighting.

According to the report, the IEC did not prepare properly for the summer, because it did not complete renovations of its power stations. Because of this, available capacity was only 7,500 megawatts, while the IEC's full potential is 10,500 MW.

The report also says that last week's events were not all that unusual. Sixty similar events occurred in 2005, but there wsas no need in those cases to cut power to custmers.

Inquiry panel chairman Dan Weinstock, who heads the electricity division of the Infrastructures Ministry; ministry attorney David Covasneano, and Dr. Shmuel Brovinder, former head of the electricity division, met with Ben-Eliezer over the weekend. The committee is expected to submit its final report later this week.

Speaking about the brownouts, Ben-Eliezer said last week he would not hesitate to take action against any person found responsible irrespective of his position or status. He said that the maintenance work left over from last winter must be completed and that the Gezer and Alon Tabor generating stations must be put into operation.

In addition, Ben-Eliezer said his ministry will monitor the IEC through its situation room, which receives data in real time about the country's power grid.

In an interview to Haaretz last week, Ben-Eliezer said there is no justification for the power shortages. He called the IEC a "pampered" company that gets almost everything it asks for. While insisting that heads could roll over the brownouts, he stressed that he would make no decisions until all details have been uncovered and analyzed. "I don't believe in empty slogans and declarations. If I knew something, I would say it - assumptions are one thing and solid information is another."

According to Ben-Eliezer, the big question is: "Where was the [IEC] board of directors and its head, who are often cited as the decision-making authority within the electric company? I'm not willing to accept an answer of 'we didn't know' or 'we weren't told.' If they are the authority, then I will insist on them giving the public an accounting of the events, and I absolutely will not relent on this point. The behavior of the company is not at all clear to me."