Int'l Security Experts, Including CIA, Start Training PA Officers

A training course for Palestinian Authority security officers, run by the Central Intelligence Agency and other international security experts, got underway Monday in Jericho. The course is being run by a team of security experts from the CIA, 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," the head of West Bank preventative 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, in spite of the fact that according to Palestinian sources, Israel has prevented 100 Palestinian officers from taking part.

According to Israeli sources, this is a very "preliminary" stage of a U.S. plan aimed at implementing reforms in the Palestinian Authority. The plan 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, the foreign security experts are helping to train the Palestinian security services, which both Israel and the U.S. 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 Monday'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 Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip, the U.S. guaranteed that 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 Shabak's, and the West Bank General Intelligence headed by Tawfik Tirawi.