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Sharon to Poll Likud Party on Gaza Withdrawal Plan - 2004-04-10


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to put his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to the vote of his ruling Likud Party this month. Mr. Sharon hopes to boost his chances of winning the poll by securing the backing of President Bush for the plan when they meet at the White House on Wednesday.

Israel Radio reported Saturday, that the date for the referendum within the Likud Party has been set for April 29.

Mr. Sharon had said he wanted the poll of Likud's 200,000 members before the end of the month.

If the referendum passes, the prime minister will present the plan to the Cabinet on May 2 and to the parliament the following day.

Mr. Sharon has been holding a hectic round of meetings with those members of his party who remain opposed to Israel unilaterally withdrawing its troops and dismantling all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli leader is also proposing to remove four Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Mr. Sharon has repeatedly stressed in recent weeks that Israel must take these steps to boost its security, while peace talks with the Palestinians remain stalled.

Several Likud officials say they will back the plan, if Mr. Sharon receives significant support from President Bush at their meeting on Wednesday.

The debate over Mr. Sharon's plan comes amid continued Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Palestinian officials say an 11-year-old Palestinian girl was shot dead Saturday in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, when she was caught up in crossfire between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers.

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