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Sharon Says European Mediators Should Support Removal of Arafat - 2003-01-19

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says his government agrees with U.S. President George W. Bush's proposal for peace with the Palestinians, but does not see eye-to-eye with the Europeans on that issue. He spoke with foreign journalists in Jerusalem about this and other topics.

Throughout his news conference, Mr. Sharon spoke repeatedly of his close relationship with the Bush Administration.

He said he fully supports President Bush's "roadmap" for peace in the Middle East. He stressed that the two governments see eye-to-eye, saying both have called for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to be removed.

"In order to move the peace process faster, Mr. Arafat should be removed. That is the American position and I think a very right position, that he should be ignored. That is our position," he said.

But Mr. Sharon said his government does not agree with the other members of the so-called "Quartet," which in addition to the United States includes Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The group is trying to re-start peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Sharon singled out the Europeans for criticism, saying they should stop trying to deal with Mr. Arafat and should adopt what he termed a more "balanced" approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Mr. Sharon repeated that his government is ready to talk peace, once Palestinians stop all attacks against Israel. In that case, he said Israel is ready to make what he called "painful concessions," but he did not specify just what these might be.

Mr. Sharon also repeated his support for military intervention in Iraq to disarm the Saddam Hussein government.

"Don't you think that is the right thing to do? To get rid of a leader that murder[s] his own citizens, that might bring terror to an entirely different level using chemical and biological weapons," he said. "Terror is not a tactical issue. Terror is a strategic issue." Mr. Sharon said Israel knows it is not a part of any U.S. led war against Iraq and has not put any pressure on the United States on the issue.

He said if a war should come then Israel has no intention of stepping up its activities against Palestinians. At the same time, Mr. Sharon warned Palestinian militants not to use such a war as a pretext for stepping up attacks against Israel.