Hold on P.A. aid is lifted


The hold on two-thirds of the $150 million President Bush ordered directly transferred to the Palestinian Authority was lifted.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the powerful U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee, said Wednesday that she had received assurances of P.A. transparency and decided to allow $100 million of the transfer.

Lowey had placed the hold last week for two reasons: Bush had waived restrictions in a bill he signed last year that required congressional approval for any direct transfer of funds over $100 million; and P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas had said in an interview that he would not dismiss a return to armed resistance should peace talks fail.

Congressional approval of the direct transfer last year was exceptional,as lawmakers traditionally oppose direct payments, fearing the money would disappear into a corruption hole or end up in the hands of terrorists. Typically they favor project-based funding through third parties.

Bush said the Palestinian Authority needed the money to leverage loans at a time it is facing down extremists and negotiating peace with Israel.

Despite her lifting of the hold, Lowey said she still had concerns about Abbas.

“While I remain skeptical about the political will of a Palestinian leadership that all too often lapses into inflammatory rhetoric that belies their stated commitment to peace, I want no one to doubt the commitment of the United States to pursue peace,” she said in introductory comments before hearing testimony from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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