September 17, 2008 - 8:00pm

About 500 members of a security force loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas crossed into Jordan on Thursday for U.S. funded training, the second such battalion to do so.

Washington wants to train the backbone of a Palestinian gendarmerie that would underpin any future state.

The battalion from Abbas's National Security Force will undergo training for four months in police tactics, riot control and human rights, officials said.

An official at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge, between the occupied West Bank and Jordan, said the battalion crossed without incident.

It is the second battalion from the NSF to undergo U.S.-funded training, part of the Bush administration's push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal this year. The other battalion returned to the West Bank in late May.

The U.S. training programme has fuelled tensions between Abbas's secular Fatah faction and the Hamas Islamist group, which seized control of the Gaza Strip last year.

Washington provides non-lethal equipment to Abbas's forces. Arab allies provide guns and ammunition with Israeli consent.

U.S., Israeli and Palestinian officials assert that Hamas receives security equipment and training from Iran and other Islamist allies.

The training is conducted by Jordanian police at the Jordanian International Police Training Centre near Amman.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas launched statehood talks last November with the goal of reaching a deal this year but the talks have shown little progress.

Olmert, poised to step down as premier following his party's election of a new leader on Wednesday, has insisted that a Palestinian state will not be established until Abbas regains control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas and reins in militants in the West Bank, where his government is based.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017