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Sharon Tells Likud Party: No Withdrawal Referendum

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has emphatically restated his refusal to hold a national referendum on his Gaza withdrawal plan, telling his Likud party that referendum calls are a stalling tactic by opponents of the plan.

In a brief address Thursday, Mr. Sharon noted widespread Israeli public support for the plan to withdraw troops and settlers from Gaza and four small West Bank enclaves later this year.

He accused opponents of the pull-out of trying to hide their opposition behind the referendum calls.

Tuesday, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom broke ranks with Mr. Sharon, saying he will lead a referendum push. Polls show at least two-thirds of Israelis favor the pullout, but there is strong opposition from settlers and their supporters.

Mr. Sharon says pull-out opponents have threatened lawmakers, army officers and security officials to gain their support for a referendum.

Some information for this report provided by AP.