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Cairo Calls for Unified Palestinian Security Force

Egypt has mediated a deal to divide responsibilities and spheres of influence between Jibril Rajoub, the current national security adviser to Yasser Arafat, and Mohammed Dahlan, former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Services in Gaza, as Cairo moves ahead with its plan to create a unified security force in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and forge a unified Palestinian leadership to present to the United States.

Palestinian sources, reporting on the reconciliation between the two former rivals, said earlier this week that the Egyptian plan calls for the new command to take control of all the P.A. armed forces and use them to take action against armed factions that try to continue terrorist strikes against Israel.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, slated to meet with President Bush two days before the American leader’s April 14 parley with Prime Minister Sharon of Israel, wants to present a unified Palestinian leadership, which would include former Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas and the current premier, Ahmed Qurei, as well as P.A. chairman Yasser Arafat.

Until April 2002, when the Israeli military destroyed the headquarters of the West Bank Preventive Security Service, which Rajoub headed, he was considered the strongman of the West Bank and a favorite of the Israelis and Americans. Rajoub and his Gazan counterpart, Dahlan, who was also favored by Israel and the United States, were bitter rivals. When the Israeli military conquered Rajoub’s West Bank headquarters in the Ramallah suburb of Beitunia, Dahlan claimed that Rajoub had surrendered to the Israelis. Following the accusation, Arafat fired Rajoub.

Since then, Rajoub has successfully fought cancer and regained his prominent position in the P.A.

If Rajoub and Dahlan have managed to overcome their differences, they could reassert P.A. control over law and order in the territories. Sources close to both sides said the two had not so much reconciled as they had “reduced the tension between them by defining spheres of responsibility.”

Meanwhile, seven months after his resignation as prime minister, Abbas blames the collapse of his government on Arafat and refuses to meet with the P.A. chairman. Abbas has also stopped participating in leadership sessions of Arafat’s Fatah faction.

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