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Israeli Parliament Passes Key Gaza Pullout Bill

Israel's parliament has approved the government's plan to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

By a vote of 59 to 40, Israeli lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to compensate the 8,500 settlers who will be affected by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan.

Lawmakers rejected proposed amendments to call a referendum on the withdrawal and delay evacuation orders.

The Sharon government hopes to implement its plan by September, over strong opposition from hardline Israeli nationalists.

The plan could still be derailed if the government does not win passage of a state budget by March 31 - a failure that would cause its automatic fall from power.

In Ramallah Wednesday, Palestinian officials said leader Mahmoud Abbas has formed a new cabinet, with supporters due to take over the interior and foreign ministries.

Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters.