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Sharon Determined to See Arafat Removed from Political Arena

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he is determined to see Palestinian President Yasser Arafat removed from the political arena. Mr. Sharon made his pledge in a speech to the opening of a new session of the Israeli parliament, in which he also re-committed himself to the international Roadmap to Peace plan.

Mr. Sharon says that Mr. Arafat remains the single biggest obstacle to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Addressing the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, Mr. Sharon said that Mr. Arafat has personally sabotaged all efforts at reaching peace and is responsible for an upsurge of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

Mr. Sharon said he is determined to implement the decision of his cabinet last month to remove Mr. Arafat from the political scene. He did not say by what means he would achieve his threat, which was made only days after saying he had ruled out any immediate plan to send the Palestinian President into exile.

Mr. Sharon said he supports the Roadmap plan, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

The Israeli leader told the parliament the Roadmap represents the only hope of a making a breakthrough towards peace with the Palestinians. He says the plan, which is officially backed both by the Israeli and Palestinian governments, also has the support of most countries around the world.

Mr. Sharon said his government is determined to accelerate construction of a security barrier in the West Bank, despite growing international opposition to the project.

The Palestinian leadership says that the barrier is an attempt by Israel to seize more territory and to unilaterally determine the boundaries of a future Palestinian state.

Mr. Sharon's government insists that the fence does not demarcate political lines and is only meant to stop Palestinians crossing into Israel carry out more terror attacks.