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Further Israeli Moves Could Lead to Single Bi-National State, Warns Qureia

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has warned that further unilateral steps by Israel could destroy chances for an independent Palestinian state and might lead to the creation of a single bi-national state.

The Palestinian prime minister says he may abandon the goal of an independent state and instead seek a single state with Israel.

Ahmed Qureia says such a country, where Palestinians and Israelis would share power, may be the only solution if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally imposes a new boundary on the Palestinians.

"It will kill the road map and it will kill the two-state vision as proposed by President Bush," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has said he will order a "unilateral disengagement" with the Palestinians if the peace process remains stalled.

The United Nations and a number of world leaders have criticized the suggestion but the idea has considerable popular support here in Israel, where it is viewed as a way of ensuring the country's security.

There are currently some 3.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza with an additional 1.2 million Arab citizens of Israel. But population trends show that they will soon outnumber the 5.5 million Jews living in Israel. A single country incorporating all the areas would mean that the Jewish state would soon have an Arab majority. That would force Israel to choose between giving Palestinians the right to vote and risk losing the country's Jewish character, or becoming a minority-ruled country.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell rejected the Palestinian prime minister's suggestion of a single state solution as not viable.

"We have a road map that is the way forward and it's been signed up to by the parties," said Colin Powell. "What we need is, I believe, more responsible action by the Palestinian Authority in order to bring terrorism under control, make sure that violence is being brought to an end, and then I think the road map can be put into use and can provide us with a way forward."

Mr. Powell said the United States is committed to a two-state solution, a state for the Palestinian people called Palestine and a Jewish state, the state of Israel.