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POWELL IN JERUSALEM

U.S. Secretary Of State Powell: ‘Israel Has Reaffirmed Her Commitment To The Roadmap Peace Plan’

PM Sharon: ‘Israeli And Palestinian Officials To Meet Very Soon To Discuss How Israel Can Facilitate Palestinian Elections’

‘Dimona Nuclear Reactor Is Perfectly Safe’

Powell - P.M.Sharon

The outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell paid a farewell visit to Jerusalem where he and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were said to have had an emotional meeting. Sharon spelled out his approach to the new situation in the post Arafat era; whereas Powell reportedly said that Washington would continue her close ties with Jerusalem.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Prime Minister Sharon told Secretary Powell Israel will do she can to facilitate the Palestinian elections slated for January 9th. Powell praised Sharon for this approach pledging American’s solid support for Israel would continue.

Powell

Within days, Israeli and Palestinian officials are to start discussing how Jerusalem can facilitate the holding of the Palestinian elections. Sharon told Powell that Israel will pull out of Palestinian towns and guarantee freedom of movement in the Palestinian areas. Although the cabinet has not decided yet, the Prime Minister also spoke in favor of East Jerusalem Arabs voting in the election. He said this would not affect the official status of Jerusalem in any way. In fact, later before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Sharon declared he would never agree to the partition of Jerusalem into Israeli and Palestinian sectors.

For his part, Powell said Sharon had reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to the Roadmap peace plan. The Prime Minister spoke of a new opportunity with the Palestinians. At the same time, he repeated his demand that the new Palestinian leadership must stop the terrorists and dismantle their organizations. However, he added that Muhmoud Abbas could not be expected to take on the terrorists right away. The bottom line was that if the Palestinians elected a serious and responsible leadership, Israel would be ready to coordinate Israel’s Gaza withdrawal and renew the Roadmap dialogue.Sharon said: ’I’m all for helping the new Palestinian leaders but not at the expense of Israel’s security’.

A senior IDF intelligence officer said Hizballah and Iran are meddling in the territories trying to torpedo any peace progress. They were urging the Tanzeem and Fetah to launch more suicide bombings and the younger generation was all for continuing the terrorism. So while, Muhmoud Abbas opposes Arafat’s approach of using terrorism as a tool for gaining Palestinian national goals, he has his work cut out.

After seeing Powell, Sharon was confident the U.S. would not change its policy on supporting Israel’s position against terrorism. This was not the case with the European Union which is angling to play a bigger role. The E.U. wishes to by-pass the first stage of the Roadmap which commits the Palestinians to halt the terrorism. Sharon says the U.S. is not happy about this E.U. approach.

In committee, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres called on Sharon to shore-up the shaky Muhmoud Abbas by making Israeli concessions. Labor MK Binyamin Ben Eliezer followed suit saying Israel should permit tens of thousands of Palestinian workers back into Israel. Sharon retorted: ‘What we’re hearing from the Palestinian leadership is don’t try and help us and don’t hug us!’

The Prime Minister, fresh from victories by his supporters at the Likud Center, declared that the disengagement will be carried out on schedule. If it were not, Israel could kiss good-bye to the pledge by president Bush about Palestinian refugees not returning to Israel, as well as support for the Israeli settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, being included in Israel's future borders.

Dimona Reactor

And this footnote: Yachad MK Zahava Galon has called on Likud Mk Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, to investigate the safety of Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona. Sharon says he is confident the reactor is being properly maintained. He noted there are dozens of other nuclear reactors in the western world which are older than Dimona. Israel was perfectly able to maintain the reactor, Sharon added, and had no need for external assistance. Yuval Steinitz is of the same opinion, but nonetheless he will carry out an independent enquiry and report back to the committee.

David Essing

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