On his first visit to the US as president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas has briefed the White House on his reforms. He is hoping to firm-up US commitment to the implementation of the “road map” peace plan. Abbas has vowed to go ahead with parliamentary elections despite rising tensions between rival groups Hamas and Fatah. He has also introduced administrative and security reforms demanded by Washington.
In return, he is seeking American assurances. Abbas wants the US to demand that Israel stops settlement activities in the West Bank and near Jerusalem.
The issue of economic support is also crucial. Until now, Congress has blocked financial assistance going directly to the Palestinian Authority. Instead, the 200 million dollar aid granted this year has been channelled through non-governmental organisations. Abbas says he needs the money to take a more direct route to his new Finance Ministry. It is believed that at today’s meeting with President George W. Bush, Congress will deliver.