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January 24, 2003

Sharon meets Abu Mazen
As the conference for the Middle East opened in London this week, Israeli sources revealed that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, was preparing himself secretly for future negotiations with the Palestinians. The sources claim that Sharon is convinced that this year - most probably after a war with Iraq - the Americans will turn to Israel and will force any Israeli government to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians.

The sources said Sharon met recently with top Palestinian officials including Mahmoud Abbas, better known by his nom de guerre of Abu Mazen, who is the deputy of President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority.

The meeting took place at Sharon's farm in the Negev desert. Sharon told the Palestinians he was willing to talk with anyone except Arafat.

According to a well-placed Middle Eastern informant Sharon "knows very well that after the war with Iraq the USA will have to 'compensate' the Arabs and Israel will have to pay at least some of the price."