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US Opposes Any Move Outside 'Road Map' for Mideast Peace, says White House Spokesman - 2003-12-18

The White House says it rejects any unilateral moves by Israel to impose a Middle East peace solution that circumvents the international peace plan known as the "road map." The comments followed some tough talk from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mr. Sharon is warning of unilateral action to separate Israelis and Palestinians if there is no progress on the road map.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan made clear it opposes all attempts to impose a solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian dispute. "The United States believes that a settlement must be negotiated and we would oppose any Israeli effort to impose a settlement," he said.

All the same, Mr. McClellan noted the administration found some things to like in the prime minister's long awaited speech Thursday on security issues. He said Mr. Sharon stressed support for the road map, which sets out a series of steps designed to lead to two states: Israeli and Palestinian.

"We are pleased to hear Prime Minister Sharon's strong reiteration of his support for the road map as the way forward," he said. "Prime Minister Sharon said it is - quote - the best way to achieve true peace."

In his speech, the prime minister spoke of dismantling settlements, one of the major steps outlined in the road map. But he also underscored Israel's determination to build a controversial security barrier through the West Bank, and talked of steps to cut off Israelis from Palestinians. Mr. McClellan acknowledged it was a mixed bag. "Some unilateral steps if they are consistent with the road map and taken under the road map can be helpful," he said. "There are others that cannot be. We want the parties working with each other and moving forward on the road map."

The White House spokesman added the United States wants to see a meeting soon between the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers. He said the United States is working closely with them to make progress on the road map and it is not beneficial for either side to threaten possible action if progress is not made.