Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he has not ruled out expelling Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat if his cabinet approves the move. The comments come as Israeli troops and tanks step up their offensive in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Sharon says he told the European Union envoy Miguel Moratinos he could visit Yasser Arafat and take him out of the country. But he said it would be a one-way ticket.

Mr. Sharon made the remarks during a tour of Israeli army bases in the West Bank. Later, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said such a decision could not be taken without full approval of the cabinet. Mr. Peres told British television he had voted against it in an earlier cabinet debate.

When Prime Minister Sharon launched the military offensive last Friday, he said Israel's aim was, in part, to isolate Mr. Arafat.

The Palestinian leader remains a virtual prisoner, confined to a few rooms inside his three-story office building, while Israeli tanks and troops surround the Ramallah headquarters.

Israeli troops and tanks have also attacked the compound of Mr. Arafat's top security chief for the West Bank. Fighting also is reported in Bethlehem and other West Bank cities.