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Sharon Wins Likud Election, Vows Hunt for Terrorists - 2002-11-29

Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has pledged to hunt down the perpetrators of terrorism, after winning a new mandate to lead his Likud Party to national elections in January. Mr. Sharon predicted his ruling faction would double in strength in the next parliament, as he swore to retaliate over terrorist attacks against his people at home and abroad.

Mr. Sharon delivered a somber victory speech, in the wake of his landslide win for the leadership of the Likud against his Foreign Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Sharon called on his supporters to respect the memories of those killed in terror attacks Thursday in Kenya and the northern Israel town of Beit Shean. He then pledged to avenge their deaths, saying "the long arm" of the Israeli security forces will catch the attackers and those who had sent them. He added "Israel will hunt down those who have spilled the blood of its citizens."

Mr. Sharon said offering condolences when Israel buried its dead was not enough. He said the all countries should also support the Jewish State in its fight against terror.

Looking ahead to national elections in Israel on January 28, Mr. Sharon said the Likud would double its numbers in the next parliament.

He will face the newly elected head of Labor, the other main party in Israel, Amram Mitzna, who is running on a leftist agenda pledging to revive talks with the Palestinians, without pre-conditions.

At the same time, Mr. Mitzna has promised to immediately withdraw Israeli soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip. He also wants to pull-back from most of the West Bank within a year, even if negotiations with the Palestinians break down.

Mr. Sharon says he, too, is seeking a final peace settlement with the Palestinians but stresses that diplomatic talks should not be re-started before the violence comes to a halt.