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U.S. wants timetable from Israel for removing outposts

Special to World
Tuesday, June 3, 2003

JERUSALEM The United States wants Israel to submit a timetable for the evacuation of more than 100 unauthorized outposts in the West Bank.

Israeli officials and Western diplomatic sources said the Bush administration regards the dismantling of the outposts as the first major Israeli obligation in connection with the so-called roadmap. Last week, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved a U.S.-sponsored plan for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian war and the establishment of an interim Palestinian state by the end of the year.

The diplomatic sources said Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and National Security Council member Eliot Abrams have called on Sharon to submit a timetable for the removal of the outposts by the time President George Bush arrives for a summit in Aqaba with Israeli and Arab leaders.

Burns and Abrams relayed a draft communique that called for an Israeli commitment to dismantle the outposts.

Sharon has agreed in principle to begin dismantling outposts and has listed 20 unspecified targets, the sources said. On Sunday, Sharon told his Cabinet that Israel must prepare to evacuate what he termed were illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank.

The prime minister did not provide details. But Cabinet members said they were under the impression that the effort would begin within days. Officials said Sharon has divided the outposts into two categories. One group was termed security outposts and officials said the prime minister intends to retain them. The other category was termed "provocative" outposts and they have been targeted for dismantling.

More than 100 outposts were established in the West Bank during the Israeli-Palestinian war. Officials said many of the outposts ranging from a mobile home and water tank to entire neighborhoods were built upon the encouragement of Sharon.

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