US behind 2006 Palestinian civil war: report

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U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice secretly planned to overthrow Hamas after the 2006 polls triggering a bloody Palestinian civil war, a U.S. magazine alleged Tuesday.

Vanity Fair said it had obtained confidential documents, which had been confirmed by U.S. and Palestinian sources, that Washington sought to arm a Palestinian force led by Fatah loyalists to oust Hamas militants from power.

“But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush,” the magazine wrote.

“Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.”

The magazine alleged the force was led by Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who has served as a security advisor to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Dahlan told Vanity Fair he had warned the Bush administration that Fatah was not ready to contest the January 2006 elections. But there was complete dismay and bafflement in the White House when Hamas swept the vote.

Without any contingency plan in place, the U.S. administration was forced onto the offensive.

In October 2006, Rice traveled back to the Middle East and sought to push Abbas into disbanding the Hamas-led government and imposing emergency rule.

A State Department memo prepared around that time said: “If you act along these lines we will support you both materially and politically.”

“We will be there to support you,” the memo said, according to Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair alleged the United States was seeking to boost Fatah security forces in preparation for a feared Hamas backlash by providing both money and arms.

The report was swiftly dismissed by State Department spokesman Tom Casey as “false, wrong, untrue, silly, ridiculous.”

Rice, who was in the West Bank on Tuesday trying to save the peace process from collapse, said: “As for the Vanity Fair article that I have not read, I am not going to comment on the article.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, also declined further comment, saying only: “Secretary Rice and her spokesman Sean McCormack spoke to this today and said that that article is not accurate”.

Reacting to the report, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “This article confirms the U.S. administration was involved in the events in Gaza. One can talk of a Gazagate.”“These revelations clear Hamas and prove that Fatah, which was used by the Americans, bears the responsibility for what happened,” Abu Zuhri told journalists in Gaza.

Vanity Fair said the U.S. security coordinator for the Palestinians, lieutenant general Keith Dayton, met in November 2006 with Dahlan for a series of Jerusalem talks.

And State Department officials told the magazine that Rice began a round of phone diplomacy among Arab leaders seeking to whip up funds for Fatah.

The first weapons, including 2,000 Egyptian automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips and two million bullets reportedly rumbled across the Israeli-controlled Gaza crossing in December 2006.

After a series of nasty, skirmishes in Gaza, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in five bloody days of fighting in June.

“Having failed to heed the warning not to hold the election, they tried to avoid the result through Dayton,” former U.N. ambassador John Bolton told Vanity Fair. “””

[ AFP , AlArabiya ]

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