EU to train Palestinian Authority police force

European Union foreign ministers are expected to announce the provision of advice and training for the Palestinian Authority police force. EU officials at their meeting in Brussels said the mission would involve about 50 law enforcement experts. The experts would advise the Palestinians on how to manage and finance the police force, but would not take part in street patrols.

The three-year mission is expected to start at the beginning of next year. A study in July 2005 by the independent by the Strategic Assessments Initiative concluded that the Palestinian Authority's security forces were weak, ill-equipped and divided. It said they were overstaffed and outgunned by militant groups.

The lack of equipment included shortages of ammunition, of means of communication beyond mobile phones, and of all-terrain vehicles. Meanwhile, an EU delegation has toured the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt as part of preparations for the Palestinian Authority to take control of the border crossing at Rafah.

Israel last week approved a proposal to give the EU a role in monitoring the crossing. The head of the delegation, Marc Otte, said he was impressed by the steps taken by the Palestinians, and expressed hope that there would soon be a final agreement with Israel on how the border will be managed.

The EU has agreed to provide observers to monitor the Rafah crossing once the Palestinians take over, following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. But it has rejected Israeli demands that the observers be given control of operations there.

Israel agreed to relinquish control of the border crossing at Rafah last week, but so far no date has been set for it to reopen, reports BBC news. I.L.

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