Egypt has asked Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to dismiss 70 senior officials involved in various corruption cases, a PA official said on Tuesday.
The official said Egyptian Intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, who met with Arafat in Ramallah on June 23, presented him with a list with the names of the top officials, demanding that they be removed from their jobs instantly.
The official did not mention the names of the suspected officials, but Egypt had asked Arafat in the past to replace most of the commanders of the PA security forces.
The Egyptians also want Arafat to reduce the number of the PA security forces from 12 to three and to appoint a new interior minister in charge of security.
The London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi described the meeting between Suleiman and Arafat as “stormy.” It said Suleiman told Arafat that the European Union and other countries have conditioned continued financial aid to the PA on the dismissal of the 70 corrupt officials.
The newspaper said Suleiman’s list was based on intelligence gathered by many European countries indicating that the officials whose names appear on the list had pocketed funds earmarked for the Palestinians and had set up private companies with the money.
“Suleiman made it crystal clear to Arafat that without reforms he would not receive financial aid from the donors, who estimate that hundreds of millions of dollars did not arrive at their destination,” the official was quoted as saying.
He added that the Egyptian emissary promised that if Arafat accepted the demands for reforms, Egypt would put pressure on the US and Israel to lift the travel ban imposed on him for the past three years.
Suleiman is scheduled to return to Ramallah before the end of this month to see if Arafat has complied with the Egyptian demands for security and economic reforms. Suleiman will then visit Washington to brief senior US officials on the outcome of his efforts.
The Egyptians earlier this week notified the Palestinians that it has decided to delay hosting intra-Palestinian discussions in Cairo until the end of this month. The talks were originally set for the beginning of July, but the Egyptians decided to postpone them after some Palestinian factions voiced opposition to an Egyptian security role in the Gaza Strip after the planned Israeli withdrawal from the area.
Mushir Al-Masri, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, announced that no date has been set up yet for the resumption of the “Palestinian national dialogue” in Cairo. He said Hamas and the Egyptian government are still holding talks on the issue, but no date has been agreed upon.
Masri said Hamas has decided to participate in administering the Gaza Strip after the Israeli pullout by joining PA civilian and security institutions.
“Hamas’s motto is that we are partners in blood and decision-making,” he said, referring to the PA.