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Sharon Gives Details of Unilateral Disengagement from Palestinians - 2004-04-05

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, says his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank is the only way to bolster his country's security.

Mr. Sharon told Israel radio that his plan to unilaterally separate from the Palestinian areas would enable Israel to fight terrorism more effectively.

He says that to improve security there is no other choice but to get Israeli troops and Jewish settlements out of the Gaza Strip. Mr. Sharon says he intends to dismantle all the settlements in Gaza and at least four in the West Bank.

He also says the reality is that Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia is not willing to meet him because he has nothing to offer. Therefore, Mr. Sharon says, without a Palestinian partner for negotiations, the two sides could never advance toward any peace agreement.

Mr. Sharon adds that Mr. Qureia had no authority because the real power lay with the Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, who he said was an obstacle to peace.

He also intimated that Mr. Arafat could be one day be assassinated for his part in orchestrating violence against Israelis.

Mr. Sharon said that whoever makes it his goal to kill Jews, and also Israeli citizens, and kills them because they are Jews, his sentence is his death.

But Mr. Arafat told reporters at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah that he is not worried about such threats against his life. He says his main concern is for the welfare of all Palestinians.

"For me, I do not care for it," said Mr. Arafat. "I am caring for my people. For our children, for our women, for our students. For our sacred Christian and Muslim holy places."

Mr. Arafat also says Mr. Sharon's withdrawal plan does not go far enough. He says Israel must pull out of all parts of the West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, there was more Israeli-Palestinian violence. Three Palestinians were reported shot and killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army says its soldiers opened fire on three suspicious figures near a border fence that divides Israel from the Gaza Strip.