UNITED NATIONS, July 13: The United Nations said on Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority was in danger of collapse, blasting Yasser Arafat in a hard-hitting statement that drew Palestinian anger and Israeli praise.

The UN's Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, told the Security Council there was a "steadily emerging chaos" in Palestinian areas and that Mr Arafat had shown a "lack of political will" to reform his Authority government.

"The paralysis of the Palestinian Authority has become abundantly clear, and the deterioration of law and order in Palestinian areas is steadily worsening," Roed-Larsen said in the UN's monthly council briefing on the situation.

"This collapse of authority cannot be attributed only to the Israeli incursions and operations inside Palestinian towns. The Palestinian Authority is in deep distress and is in real danger of collapse," he said.

He said Yasser Arafat had given "only nominal and partial support" to Egyptian efforts to reform Palestinian security services, called for under the roadmap. The statements drew a stinging rebuke from the Palestinian representative at the United Nations, Nasser al Kidwa, who questioned whether Roed-Larsen was in fact speaking on behalf of the world body.

"We have serious problems with this statement," Mr Kidwa told reporters. "We're not even sure that it is reflective of the United Nations position." He added: "I would say that the Palestinian Authority has serious problems, but I would say then that this is the direct result of Israeli policies and Israeli actions."

In an unusual turn of events, Israel praised Mr Roed-Larsen, who is a regular target of Israeli criticism over his statements on the conflict with the Palestinians. "This is basically what we have been saying all along," deputy Israeli ambassador Arye Mekel said. "We welcome any time there is a statement that is realistic."

Barrier Rerouted: Israel is redrawing the route of its West Bank barrier closer to its borders to try to ensure Palestinians are not cut off from their lands in line with an Israeli High Court order, security sources said on Tuesday.

The World Court, the UN's top judicial arm, branded the barrier illegal and called for its removal in a non-binding opinion last week rejected by Israel and hailed by Palestinians.

Two senior US security envoys held talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon about the repercussions of the World Court decision, unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank and his plan to withdraw settlers from Gaza next year.

"The prime minister said at the meeting he was adhering to Israel's commitments and intends to carry them out as soon as possible," Mr Sharon's office said, citing the dismantling of unauthorized outposts and humanitarian gestures towards the Palestinians.

"We aspire not to separate Palestinians from their lands and build agricultural (access) gates, and of course we will try not to create enclaves. However there might be cases where we have no other alternative," a defence ministry spokeswoman said. -AFP/Reuters

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