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February 09, 2003

Israel proposes conditional withdrawal

This article clarifies the very recent exchange between Sharon and Arafat
JERUSALEM - Israel has proposed a gradual withdrawal from occupied West Bank cities, provided that it sees Palestinian forces making serious attempts to prevent attacks, a senior official said yesterday.

The proposal was raised last week, in the first direct meeting that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has had with Palestinians in almost a year.

The United States has repeatedly appealed to Israel and to the Palestinians to rein in violence before any military action Washington might take against Iraq.

Sharon's meeting on Wednesday with the Palestinian Legislative Council speaker, Ahmed Korei, was confirmed by a source on Friday. The discussions coincided with proposals to bring the center-left Labor Party into a coalition government.

Labor has said that Sharon must resume talks with the Palestinians before it could consider entering his government.

There was no immediate Palestinian reaction to the proposal, under which Israel would withdraw from West Bank cities that it reoccupied last year in response to a series of suicide attacks. Israel has made similar proposals in the past.

The cities are among large areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that Israel handed over to Palestinian control in the 1990s. Those withdrawals were pursuant to interim peace accords. [more]