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Israeli Cabinet Expected to Approve 'Road Map' Peace Plan

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to win a showdown with right-wingers in his cabinet who oppose a Washington-sponsored peace plan. Cabinet acceptance of the plan could open the way for a peace summit early next month.

Several senior Israeli politicians, including members of Mr. Sharon's ruling Likud Party, say they are against the U.S. "road map" to peace plan.

The plan calls for an end to two-and-a-half years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would lay the groundwork for a Palestinian state.

Mr. Sharon is expected to present the plan for cabinet approval against opposition from several ministers, who describe the "road map" as "a recipe for terror".

Although he had earlier expressed doubts, Mr. Sharon announced Friday he was willing to accept the steps outlined in the plan, which calls for an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

His decision followed an announcement by the U.S. administration saying Israel's concerns about the plan would be taken into account during negotiations.

Aides say Mr. Sharon is confident of getting support for the initiative. Justice Minister Tommy Lapid, the leader of the moderate Shinui Party, said that while there might be some opposition in the cabinet, in the end the road-map would be approved.

If Mr. Sharon gets cabinet approval, it could lead to a new level of diplomatic activity.

President Bush has hinted that he might convene a three-way summit with Mr. Sharon and the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

Western diplomats say such a summit might take place in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in early June, following a meeting of the leading industrialized countries, the G8, in France.