Congress may give $16 million for Karni upgrade

The US government has asked Congress for US$16 million to upgrade and expand operations at the Gaza Strip's only cargo crossing, which is crucial to rebuilding the economy of the impoverished area, Western officials said Friday. The US government had cut a security aid package for the Palestinian Authority to US$59 million from a planned US$86 million after lawmakers expressed qualms about a the Palestinians' coalition government between Hamas and the Fatah Party. However, the new package would increase the funds earmarked for the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel from about US$10 million to US$16 million, said a Western official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the program. The Western official said the US administration can make a better argument for spending money at Karni because it doesn't benefit any specific party or faction. Abbas' presidential guard will be responsible for security at Karni.