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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 19:45 GMT
Israel Electric sets PA debts at $20m
an Israeli tank watches over Jenin
Blockades mean Palestinians cannot pay their power bills
Israel's state-owned power company, Israel Electric Corp, is asking the government to strip 85m shekels ($20m; 14m) from the transfer payments it makes to the hard-pressed Palestinian Authority.

IEC says it wants the money because as of the end of November the municipality of Gaza, within the PA, owes it that much, and the sum is increasing by 10-15m shekels a month.

In a statement, the company said it was reluctant to cut power altogether because of the "sensitive" nature of the politics of the situation.

It also admitted that it had made similar requests - unsuccessfully - to the finance ministry in the past.

Blockade

The PA is having trouble paying as a result of the long-running Israeli blockade of the occupied territories.

At present, the authority is barely able to pay the 110,000-plus people on its payroll.

And with the vast majority of Palestinians barred now from their former jobs in Israel itself, the amount of money coming into the Palestinian areas is minimal.

"Yes, there are 85m shekels in debts," said Yehya Shamyia, general director of the Palestinian Energy Authority.

"The problem is not that we do not want to pay, but we have an internal problem which is that people are unable to pay their debts to the Palestinian electric company."

Mr Shamyia said that rolling power cuts were already the norm.

See also:

03 Dec 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Arafat's hard choices
13 Nov 01 | Business
Israel telecoms sale launched
28 Aug 01 | Business
Israel loses high tech jobs
26 Jan 01 | Business
Israel's economic tightrope
12 Oct 00 | Business
Conflict hits Israeli shares
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