The Jordan Times
September 18, 2008 - 8:00pm

Establishing an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil serves Jordan?s ?higher strategic interests?, Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Nasser Judeh said on Thursday.

Arriving at a just solution for the issue of refugees in accordance with international resolutions, especially UN General Assembly Resolution No. 194 that stipulates the Palestinian refugees? right to return and repatriation, is also in the Kingdom?s strategic interest, he noted.

In a statement to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, Thursday, Judeh also dismissed reports carried by some media outlets.

The reports said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a proposal that Jordan become a home for Palestinian refugees in return for financial compensation from leading world countries, during his recent meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah.

Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Palestinian President Nabil Abu Rudeina also dismissed these reports, saying their purpose is to harm the distinguished relations between the Jordanian and Palestinian peoples. He also stressed that the Palestinians? home is Palestine.

Judeh said such news reports published every now and then seek to divert people?s attention from the real goal for which Jordan is working under the leadership of King Abdullah - the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian gendarmerie

Meanwhile, about 500 members of a security force loyal to the Palestinian president crossed into Jordan on Thursday for US-funded training, the second such battalion to do so, Reuters reported from the Allenby Bridge.

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

The battalion from Abbas' National Security Force (NSF) 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 US-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, Reuters said.

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

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

US, 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 fighters in the West Bank, where his government is based.

Egypt mediation

Israeli defence officials say senior negotiator Ofer Dekel has met Egyptian officials in Cairo in an effort to achieve movement on a proposed prisoner swap with Hamas.

Dekel is the Israeli official in charge of efforts to free Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, who was captured by Gaza fighters two years ago. Hamas wants Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit.

The Israeli officials would not say who Dekel met during his trip to Cairo Wednesday or what was the outcome of the meeting.

The Israeli officials spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with Israeli government policy of not commenting on the indirect negotiations.

Gaza unrest

A Fateh fighter died after being tortured in the Gaza Strip, relatives said on Thursday, blaming the rival Hamas movement that rules the Palestinian territory.

Raed Al Harazin, 31, "was kidnapped from his home by armed men" on Monday, his brother Tayssir told AFP.

"Two hours later he was thrown 100 metres in front of the house in Gaza City. We took him to hospital where he stayed in extensive care for two days before he died," he said.

"There were traces of torture all over his body and he suffered from cranial haemorrhage after being beaten on the head," Tayssir said.

A cousin of the victim, who declined to give his name, claimed the men were members of the armed wing of Hamas.

A Fateh neighbourhood leader also blamed Hamas' Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades.

Hamas did not immediately comment on the claims.


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