- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

BEIRUT Representatives from governments and international organizations are expected to meet in Beirut this year to draw up a strategic plan for the reconstruction of the devastated Palestinian territories, a senior U.N. official said yesterday.

Mervat Tallawy, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, said in an interview that the meeting will "lay a plan for the reconstruction of the Palestinian territories."

She said the plan was for ESCWA, a regional U.N. agency that includes 13 Arab countries, to organize the conference in collaboration with all other U.N. agencies.

"The situation in Palestine is extremely bad, but despite the present gloomy picture, we should think about the future," Miss Tallawy said. She appeared confident that U.N. resolutions would be eventually implemented and "this region be allowed to live in peace."

The conference would draw up a master plan in which "every organization, agency or donor state could contribute to the reconstruction of the Palestinian economy by choosing the projects they wish to finance." ESCWA has been asking the Palestinian Authority to define "urgent needs and priorities."

She said estimates of Palestinian economic losses since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000 range between $3 billion to $4 billion $600 million of that total since Israeli troops reoccupied parts of the West Bank and stormed Jenin.

"Between 60 and 70 percent of the Palestinians are living below the poverty line, without employment," she estimated. "Shops are closed and farmers cannot work their land, and if they can, they simply cannot send their agricultural products to the markets because of the Israeli blockade."

Besides the material destruction, there was the psychological damage. In her view, it could take "long years or generations to overcome the psychological barrier and lack of confidence" between Israelis and Palestinians.

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