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Israel's Likud Urges Referendum on Gaza Withdrawal

Israel's ruling Likud party is urging a parliamentary referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial pullout plan from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Likud's Central Committee voted overwhelmingly Thursday to call for a non-binding referendum on the disengagement plan.

Party members who are against the withdrawal say they will join forces with far-right legislators later this month when the state budget comes up for a vote. Failure to pass the budget would force snap elections and shelve the Gaza plan.

Thursday's vote follows a meeting Wednesday between Vice Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres and Palestinian Cabinet Minister Mohammed Dahlan. Mr. Peres said one of the topics he discussed was a possible handover of businesses held by Jewish settlers in Gaza to Palestinians, when Israel pulls out of the territory.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP, Reuters.