Source AP ©

US to train security officers from Palestine

The United States will train officers of a Palestinian security service to better protect officials visiting the West Bank.

The training is part of a U.S. effort to bolster moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' government in the West Bank, formed after Hamas seized power in Gaza in mid-June.

The Bush administration has made clear that it sees the Palestinians' bitter internal split as an opportunity to push for a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, using the West Bank as a model.

During a visit to the West Bank earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.S. would spend about $80 million (59.5 million EUR) for broad security training of Palestinian services.

As part of that effort, trainers from the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security will begin carrying out exercises with Abbas's Palestinian Presidential Guard in the West Bank during a series of courses to run through early 2008. The State Department said the primary aim was improving VIP protection.

In the two months since the Hamas victory, Israel has also resumed security coordination with Abbas' forces and allowed them to receive shipments of weapons, hoping to prevent further gains by the Islamic militants of Hamas.

Earlier this month, Israeli and Palestinian security forces worked together to protect Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jericho during a rare visit by an Israeli leader to a West Bank town.

The United States previously provided training for Palestinian security services during the 1990s, but cut off cooperation at the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2000.