German leader to Sharon: Show 'more flexibility' on settlements
BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who went to Europe in an effort to put more pressure on the Palestinians to honor a cease-fire, was told Thursday his government should show "more flexibility" on Jewish settlements.
At a news conference with Sharon, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he was offering the Israeli government some friendly advice.
"We offer Israel advice as a friend to exercise more flexibility in the question of settlement policy," Schroeder said. "We cannot give anything more than advice."
After the news conference with Schroeder, Sharon went into a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel. That meeting was scheduled to take the place of a canceled stop by the Israeli leader in Brussels.
Sharon's office said the cancellation was caused by a scheduling problem, but Sharon is the target of a war crimes investigation brought in the Belgian courts over massacres in two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon during his tenure as Israeli defense minister in 1982.
Asked about his position on the complaint against Sharon, Michel told CNN: "My position is that it is very important that I should have a good conversation, a positive conversation with Mr. Sharon."
Michel said the complaint is a legal matter, not a political one, but he admitted that it complicates Belgian relations with Israel. Belgium currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and the EU is attempting to play a greater role in getting a peace agreement in the Middle East.
Schroeder said Israel and the Palestinian Authority should begin immediately to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell committee. But Sharon told reporters that progress cannot be made "until the guns are quiet."
Israel agreed last week to proceed with the Mitchell plan after a period of seven days in which there is no violence. The Mitchell committee, an independent panel headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, investigated the Israeli-Palestinian violence and offered suggestions on how to end it.
Arafat said Wednesday that the seven days are over and said the Mitchell plan -- which calls for a cooling-off period, confidence-building steps and an eventual return to negotiations -- should be implemented immediately.
Israel says the seven days have not yet begun.
Sharon will also meet with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, whom he praised for his even-handed approach.
The Israeli leader will travel to Paris later in the day. He will meet with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin before returning to Israel on Friday evening.
Sharon's trip follows a stormy Israeli security Cabinet meeting Wednesday in which the Cabinet agreed to continue to exercise restraint but also agreed to step up what Israel is calling the "focused prevention" of terrorism.
Israel has said it will target terrorists who are on their way to carry out attacks against Israelis. The Palestinians have called such Israeli actions assassinations. The latest one Sunday killed three Palestinians.
The United States has condemned the attacks as "targeted killings."
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