CIA Begins Training Palestinian Officers

A training course for Palestinian Authority security officers got underway yesterday in Jericho. The course is being run by a team of security experts from the Central Intelligence Agency, Jordan and Egypt, and is taking place at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jericho.

Jericho and Bethlehem are the only towns in the West Bank that have not been reoccupied by the Israel Defense Forces. Security was tight around the hotel, and journalists were not allowed entry.

"The session will be part of a training program with the goal of developing the capabilities of the security services as part of the reforms launched by the Palestinian Authority," head of West Bank preventive security, Zuheir Manasra, said on Sunday.

The current course will last 20 days, after which, different groups will be trained.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat gave his approval to the training, despite the fact that, according to Palestinian sources, Israel prevented 100 Palestinian officers from taking part.

According to Israeli sources, this is a very "preliminary" stage of a U.S. plan to implement reforms in the Palestinian Authority. The program was developed by a CIA team that spent several weeks in the region and met with senior Palestinian officials.

Also involved in the plan were Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

As part of the reforms within the Palestinian Authority, the foreign security experts are helping train Palestinian security services, which both Israel and the United States accuse of not doing enough to prevent terror attacks against Israel.

Officers from the West Bank preventive security service, headed by Zuheir Manasra, were present at yesterday's course, in addition to those of the Gaza Strip General Intelligence, headed by Amin al-Hindi. Palestinian policemen and firemen also took part.

According to Rashid Abu Shabak, head of preventive security in the Gaza Strip, the U.S. guaranteed the training program would be carried out as planned, but did not impose upon Israel to let everyone participate. The ban on letting officers take part in the course is not a personal one, but rather aimed at certain organizations, such as the West Bank General Intelligence, headed by Tawfik Tirawi.