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Palestinian PM seeks aid for embryo state

By Mohammed Assadi
/ Source: Reuters

By Mohammed Assadi

An international airport for a future state of Palestine, national institutions and new rail links were listed by the Palestinian prime minister on Tuesday in a government program needing foreign funding.

Salam Fayyad's 65-page program proposes a generous tax regime for foreign investors in a Palestinian state, which he says could be made ready by 2011.

The program appeared to be a wish-list rather than a detailed blueprint. Peace talks with Israel, in which Palestinians seek a state on Israeli-occupied land, have been suspended since December.

"We need continued support by the international community," Fayyad told reporters after introducing the document.

"We are going to seek this additional funding," he said without disclosing figures. "Even after the state is established ... we will continue to need external financial support at least for development and public investment spending."

The Palestinian Authority is heavily dependent on foreign assistance for most of its budget. In 2008, it received 1.8 billion in budget support.

The Fayyad plan is short on detail, but setting out such objectives is a departure from Palestinian policy over the past 15 years, which focused exclusively on negotiations with Israel rather than building institutions.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has made a resumption of peace talks with Israel conditional on a freeze on Jewish settlements in territory seized by Israel in a 1967 war.


Fayyad said he had informed the European Union and U.S. president Barack Obama of his vision of an international airport in the Jordan valley, which is under Israeli occupation.

He said he recently told U.S. officials during a visit to Washington that the Palestinians "want to receive President Obama in our airport. We want to receive him landing in his Air Force One, not the Marine helicopter" from Israel.

"We know that the path ahead is not planted with flowers," Fayyad said. "But we are heading forward and we know that we are living under occupation but we should not give up and say this is our destiny."

A technocrat with no significant political base, he heads a newly aligned cabinet with more ministers than before from the dominant Fatah faction of President Abbas, whose Islamist Hamas rivals refuse to recognize the premier.

Fayyad's program includes building infrastructure, securing energy sources and water, and improving housing, education, and agriculture. No detailed schedules are included.

Fayyad said other projects for the would-be state include an oil refinery.