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Bush, Sharon Meet Monday in Texas

  • Ralph Eckhardt

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he will discuss recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the Gaza strip during his meeting Monday with President Bush.

Speaking on the plane bringing him to the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the mortar and rocket fire "is a flagrant violation of the understandings" reached at the February truce summit with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The Israeli leader said, "this will be a central issue to be raised in my talks with President Bush."

The Israeli army says Palestinian militants fired 70 mortars and rockets at Jewish settlements since Saturday in retaliation for Israel's killing of three teenagers on the Gaza-Egypt border.

During his visit, Mr. Sharon will be seeking President Bush's strong endorsement for Israel's scheduled withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The talks are also expected to focus on Israel's plan to expand its largest West Bank settlement.

Israel insists on building 3,500 new homes in a settlement [Maale Adumim] near Jerusalem.

But U.S. officials have said the plan is at odds with the internationally-backed Road Map peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Friday, President BUsh said the peace plan contains clear obligations on settlements that he expects the prime minister to adhere to. The peace plan calls for a freeze of Israeli "settlement activity."

This is Prime Minster Sharon's 10th trip to the United States since he took office in 2001, and his first to the Bush ranch.