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Bush calls on Sharon's support for Palestinian state

Special to World
Thursday, January 30, 2003

JERUSALEM The United States has urged Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to cooperate in the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The appeal came from U.S. President George Bush, who telephoned Sharon on Wednesday. An Israeli government statement said Bush congratulated Sharon on winning Israel's national elections and said the prime minister must work toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"U.S. President Bush said that the elections were very important for Israel and that it was now possible to continue implementing what Prime Minister Sharon believes in," a statement by Sharon's office said. "Prime Minister Sharon thanked U.S. President Bush and said that he would continue to act towards implementing the plan that they have agreed upon."

The statement did not elaborate. But Israeli officials said the reference was to an agreement by both men to cooperate in the formation of a Palestinian state and the end of the Palestinian war against Israel.

Later, Sharon issued another statement that ruled out any talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The statement said Arafat, "who continues to finance, initiate, operate and dispatch terror, will not be a partner for negotiations. Israel will be prepared to speak only to those Palestinians who are not involved in terror in any way, shape or form."

Arafat has offered to resume negotiations with Israel and meet Sharon. In Washington, U.S. officials said the White House and the State Department plan to renew efforts to establish a Palestinian state. They said Sharon has been urged to discuss the issue with Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"He [Bush] discussed the importance of working for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, recognizing Israel's ongoing and vital security needs, as well as the importance of the creation of a Palestinian state that can live side by side with Israel," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Wednesday.

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