World Bank to pay PA bird farmers $2m.

Israeli officials suspect Palestinians have not destroyed infected fowl.

livni sits 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
livni sits 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The World Bank will immediately make $2 million available to Palestinians to compensate chicken farmers in the Gaza Strip for the destruction of poultry inflected with avian influenza, a Foreign Ministry official said Saturday night. The decision to budget the funds follows an appeal by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Thursday to World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz for the bank's assistance in encouraging poultry growers in Gaza to immediately destroy their diseased fowl. The official said the delicate issue of transferring the money to the Palestinians, without it going through the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, had not yet been addressed. According to officials in Livni's office, the World Bank also said it would look for additional sources of aid to help the Palestinians with the issue. Livni also called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday and asked for the organization's assistance in dealing with the bird flu in Gaza. Annan told Livni he was instructing the World Health Organization to stepup measures inside the Strip. Israeli farmers, who have had to destroy hundreds of thousands of fowl, are expected to receive compensation from the government. Palestinian chicken farmers, said Israeli officials, have been reluctant to destroy their birds without knowing if they would be compensated. Livni's call to Wolfowitz came amid growing Israeli concern that without international intervention - both in compensating the farmers and physically helping them destroy the poultry - the steps needed to stop the spread of the bird flu in the PA would not be taken. In a related development, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Livni, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, to discuss the opening of the border crossings with Gaza, to enable the movement of trucks bearing humanitarian aid and food supplies. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the purpose of the calls was "to talk to all three about how we can work together to ensure that the border remains open and that the Palestinian people continue to get the kind of trade and humanitarian supplies across the border that we've been able to assure to date, [and] looking ahead, to continue the flow of those goods." Both the Karni and Kerem Shalom crossings were opened intermittently last week to allow the passage of trucks, amid concerns of a growing humanitarian crisis inside the Gaza Strip. Livni, according to her office, told Rice that Israel would do whatever it could to facilitate the movement of goods and humanitarian aid into Gaza through the crossings, while at the same time keeping in mind Israeli security concerns.