EU cash 'funded' suicide bombers




THE Israeli Government has accused Yassir Arafat of secretly using aid from the European Union to finance terrorist attacks.

As pressure increased steadily on the Israelis to negotiate with Mr Arafat, officials maintained that documents seized during last month’s military raids across the West Bank provided “damning evidence” that European Union money was indirectly funding suicide-bombing missions.

The European Union provides ten million euros (£6.25 million) each month towards the salaries of staff at Mr Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.

Much of that money comes from British taxpayers. According to the Israeli authorities, “vast sums” have been covertly channelled from the monthly EU grants to Fatah gunmen and members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

“What is happening here isn’t the fault of the Europeans,” said Dani Naveh, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs in the Israeli Cabinet.

“But it is the way the Palestinians have decided to use EU money — for terror. There are hundreds of terrorists who get their monthly salaries from the Palestinian Authority and, indirectly, from the European Union.”

The Israeli Government says that papers seized during its West Bank operation also demonstrate that Mr Arafat “was personally involved in the planning and execution” of terrorism.

The allegations are among a series of claims made by the Israelis in a dossier based on captured Palestinian documents that was published by the Israeli Government yesterday.

A row between the Israeli authorities and the European Union has been simmering for more than a year. The EU is now the biggest single donor to the Palestinans, and members of Mr Sharon’s Government say that millions of euros which have flooded into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are being used in part to finance attacks on Israeli civilians.

EU officials, meanwhile, say that legitimate development projects financed with European aid are being wrecked. Some suspect that such schemes may have been targets of the Israeli military. Officials in Brussels said that damage to EU-funded buildings and equipment had exceeded £12 million even before Operation Defensive Shield started five weeks ago. Some member-states believe that Europe should demand compensation.

Gunnar Weigand, spokesman for Chris Patten, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner, said last night that the way that the Palestinians spent each monthly grant was carefully scrutinised by officials of the International Monetary Fund before the next payment was made. “This is a very serious allegation,” he said. “I am not in a position to comment, because I have not seen this report. If there is supposed evidence, we will have to study it,” Mr Wiegand said.

The Palestinian Authority dismissed the dossier as “an irrelevance”. Samir Rantissi, adviser to the Information Minister, Yassir Abed Rabbo, said that no EU money had been used to finance Fatah. “It is used only to finance the salaries of the employees of the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, was carrying a copy of the 103-page dossier when he arrived in Washington last night for talks with President Bush.

Mr Sharon has said that he favours the establishment of a regional conference on the conflict and fresh talks with the Palestinians, but not with Mr Arafat.