Israel Says Deal Reached To Halt Rolling Blackouts In West Bank

Photo dated 13 July 2006 showing power cables in Germany. A sudden weekend surge in demand for electricity in Germany 04 November 2006, due to freezing weather plunged much of Europe into blackness as France and other power exporting countries found their grids overtapped.

JERUSALEM (AFP) –  Israeli and Palestinian officials reached an agreement on Wednesday to stop several days of rolling blackouts in the occupied West Bank over what Israel says is some $450 million in debt.

Under the agreement, the Palestinian Authority would make an immediate payment of 20 million shekels ($5.2 million, 4.6 million euros) and engage in negotiations on the remainder, the state-run Israel Electricity Corporation said in a statement.

The company said it could reinstate the power cuts if a wider agreement is not reached within a week.

Palestinian officials did not immediately comment on the deal.

The Palestinian Authority is struggling financially and depends largely on foreign aid. Its economy has faltered in part due to Israeli restrictions in the West Bank.

It relies heavily on Israel for electricity supplies.

The IEC has since March 31 reduced power supply for hours at a time to Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron, causing blackouts that Palestinian officials said threatened to cause further economic damage.