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Sharon Again Threatens Action Against Arafat - 2004-09-22

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has again threatened to take action against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In an hour-long interview with Israel Radio he also expressed doubts about Syria's planned troop redeployment in Lebanon.

Once again Prime Minister Sharon is threatening to remove Yasser Arafat.

"He will get what he deserves," Mr. Sharon told Israel Radio. Last week, the prime minister told a leading Israeli newspaper Israel would act against Mr. Arafat, suggesting he could be expelled or assassinated.

Israel killed the leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas and his two top aides earlier this year in Gaza.

The Israeli leader has refused to deal with Yasser Arafat for more than three years and has kept him mostly confined to his West Bank offices since 2001.

Mr. Sharon also told his radio interviewer he is committed to dismantling Jewish settlements in Gaza even though his own Likud Party opposes the plan. He is expected to present his plan to the parliament before the end of the year.

Palestinians insist it can only be a first step in a peace process that calls for Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank, too.

On other issues, the Israeli leader expressed skepticism over Syria's redeployment of troops in neighboring Lebanon.

"We have to see some sign that Syria is serious," he said, "and not just trying to divert U.S. pressure."

Syria this week announced that several thousand of some 20,000 troops it has stationed in Lebanon would be moved farther away from Beirut. The action comes after calls by Washington and the U.N. Security Council for Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon, something Lebanese and Syrian leaders have rejected.

Mr. Sharon says his government would consider renewing peace talks with Damascus if Syria withdrew its forces from Lebanon. Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon since 1976.

Israel has accused Syria of supporting pro-Iranian Hezbollah guerrillas operating in southern Lebanon. Mr. Sharon also calls on Damascus to kick out Palestinian militants now operating in Syria.