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French Version

Jordan raises stakes in tiff with Hamas, says smuggled arms came from Syria

Jordanian Prime Minister Maarouf al-Bakhit has told a meeting of MPs that weapons seized from a secret Hamas arms cache in Jordan had been smuggled from Syria, legislators said Thursday.

Hamas also faces problems at home, where its latest move threatened to widen the party's rift with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

With the Palestinian Authority already under international pressure over a general lack of confidence in Hamas' willingness to wield power responsibly, Interior Minister Said Siam announced the creation of a special new force drawn on the armed wings of all factions. He also nominated a top militant to oversee security.

In his meeting late Wednesday with MPs, Bakhit gave no details on how the weapons, which authorities say were recently discovered, had reached Jordan from Syria, where Hamas' exiled leadership is based.

Azzam Huneidi, the head of the 17-member Islamic Action Front bloc in the 110-seat assembly, said Bakhit declined to elaborate beyond saying the cache - which contained rocket launchers and high explosives - "came from Syria."

Palestinian Foreign Minister and senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar, whose visit to Amman was scrapped by Jordan over the affair, told reporters: "This accusation is unacceptable. We don't play with the security of anyone."

Zahhar made the comments after a meeting Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus.

Without giving details, Bakhit also told MPs that the smuggling and storing of arms was just one of several attempts by Hamas to bring weapons into the kingdom that had been foiled by Jordanian intelligence.

He evaded questions from deputies on whether any activists had been detained. "He only said the investigations were ongoing," Huneidi said.

A security official said that while Jordan was concerned that the weapons had come from Syria, there was no proof that Damascus condoned the plan.

Another alarming sign for Jordanian intelligence was that several Hamas activists had been arrested while engaged in "surveillance of vital installations," the security source said without elaborating.

A struggle between Abbas and the governing Hamas group for control of Palestinian security forces intensified when Seyam named Jamal Abu Samhadana, commander of the Popular Resistance Committees and a senior Fatah leader, to be supervisor of the Interior Ministry.

Seyam also said his ministry would soon begin to recruit fighters from all Palestinian movements for a "special executive" force to deal with ordinary crime and clan rivalries in Gaza and support the work of police and security services.

"We want to end the security chaos and illegal activity in the Palestinian territories at all costs," Siam told supporters in Gaza City. "We need all people to support us in this mission," he said, adding that members of the new force would not be paid salaries by the Palestinian Authority.

Amman,24April2006
Redaction
The Daily Star


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