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Israel´s Sharon Says Diplomacy on Hold (AP) By STEVE WEIZMAN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 08/10/03 5:00 PM) Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41354-2003Aug10.html
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JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet on Sunday that a U.S.-backed plan for Palestinian statehood will not move ahead until the Palestinians carry out their pledge to dismantle militant groups.
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The message was reinforced by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who said the peace process was on hold and the current security situation in Palestinian areas had become "virtually intolerable."
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On another front, Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon fired shells at northern Israel on Sunday, killing a 16-year-old and wounding five, including an infant, in the border town of Shlomi. Israel retaliated with an air strike and an artillery barrage.
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The youth was the first Israeli civilian killed in such an attack since 1999. Israel pulled its troops out of southern Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.
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At Sunday´s weekly Cabinet meeting, the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said a West Bank bomb factory raided by troops on Friday was preparing missiles to be launched into Israel, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
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Two members of Hamas and an Israeli soldier were killed in the raid, and a Palestinian stone thrower was killed by Israeli troops. The militant group, which was among those that declared a cease-fire, threatened revenge.
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Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting, the official quoted Yaalon as saying that while the Palestinian public was opposed to terror attacks on Israelis and wanted the 6-week-old cease-fire to continue, Palestinian security forces were doing little to stop attacks.
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"When occasionally something is done, it is generally a result of American pressure," the official quoted Yaalon as saying. "The Palestinian Authority must dismantle the terrorist infrastructure - period."
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Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat said Israel, not the Palestinians, was failing to live up to its commitments under the "road map," a blueprint for Mideast peace meant to lead to Palestinian statehood by 2005.
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"In accordance with the road map, what should be dismantled is the Israeli occupation and the Israeli settlements," Erekat told The Associated Press.
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The plan, launched at a June 4 summit between President Bush, Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, is a three-stage program. In the first phase the Palestinians are to dismantle "terrorist capabilities and infrastructure (including) confiscation of illegal weapons."
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Israel commits to "immediately dismantle" about 100 settlement outposts, established in the West Bank since 2001, to take "all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life" and to withdraw progressively from Palestinian autonomous zones occupied since fighting between the two sides erupted in September 2000.
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About a dozen outposts have been taken down, but a similar number have gone back up.
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In a first step toward normalizing Palestinian life, Israel removed a few West Bank checkpoints but dozens remain. Israel has pulled troops out of parts of Gaza and the West Bank town of Bethlehem but still holds six major West Bank towns.
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Israel says further handovers are contingent on the Palestinians proving they can keep their sectors quiet.
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Abbas and his government have made clear terror attacks should stop, but so far only a few weapons have been taken, and the Palestinians argue that as long as the militants are not attacking Israelis, they should be given time to disarm them by persuasion.
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The Israel official said Sharon made clear during the Cabinet meeting that there can be "no progress toward a Palestinian state without full implementation of their obligations."
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The official said Yaalon told ministers that the United States was allowing Abbas a breathing space in disarming the militant groups, mindful of opposition he faces within Palestinian politics, but the outcome was that the militants were getting time to rearm and regroup.
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In interviews on Army Radio and Israel Radio, Shalom said Palestinian "extremist groups" were using the lull to train their men and dig tunnels in the Gaza Strip for smuggling arms in from neighboring Egypt.
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On Army Radio, he said, "the current situation from our point is view is virtually intolerable."
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The official said Yaalon told the Cabinet that on some occasions, when the army discovered the Gaza end of border tunnels and blew them up, smoke was seen coming out of the other end - inside Egyptian army posts. He said he believed this was because individual Egyptian soldiers had been bribed, and it was not part of official Egyptian policy. (© 2003 The Associated Press 08/10/03)
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