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Sharon Expected To Focus on Ceasefire in Bush Talks - 2002-06-09

Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, arrives in Washington Sunday in an effort to convince the U.S. administration that Palestinian attacks must end before peace talks can resume. Mr. Sharon will meet with U.S. National Security Council Advisor, Condoleezza Rice and President Bush on Monday.

Mr. Sharon set out his message to the American administration in an article published under his name in the Sunday New York Times. He says that quiet is a pre-requisite for peace talks in the Middle East. Mr. Sharon said "Israel must defeat terrorism, it cannot negotiate under fire." At the same time, he added that once the violence is halted, Israel is ready to make painful concessions in order to reach a peace agreement.

Mr. Sharon's message comes during a time of heightened violence. Three Israelis were killed in two raids on Jewish settlements in the West Bank on Saturday. Israel says it killed seven Palestinian gunmen during these incidents.

Palestinians are demanding that Israel withdraw completely from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which it captured during the 1967 Middle East War.

But Mr. Sharon, who says he is prepared to give up large parts of these territories, plans to tell U.S. officials that Israel will never agree to fully withdraw to the 1967 borders. He argues that such a move would endanger Israel's security.

Israeli newspapers reported Sunday that Mr. Sharon rejects both a peace initiative which Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak put forward over the weekend at the U.S. Presidential retreat at Camp David and one said to have been drafted by U.S. officials.

The Israeli press says Mr. Sharon is unhappy about both plans, because they propose that the 1967 borders be used as a basis for a final peace agreement.