Sharon to give Bush his vision of peace plan
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was expected Tuesday to lay out for President Bush his vision for a Middle East peace, a plan that would exclude Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Sharon said prior to leaving Jerusalem for Washington that he will present a "serious plan" of his own. While he gave no details, reports in the Israeli media say he will push for a three-part plan calling for a regional or international conference, a series of long-term interim agreements and then final status negotiations, including the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Sharon, who brought with him a report the Israelis say links Arafat directly to terror, is expected to tell Bush that Arafat is a terrorist and Israel will not deal with him.
But administration officials told CNN Sharon will be told that while the documents he has may be accurate, the reality is that Arafat remains the Palestinian leader and will have to be dealt with.
Bush is also expected to push Sharon to immediately ease restrictions on Palestinians. He is also expected to tell Sharon that continued settlement activity is not helping create an atmosphere for peace.
Bush played down the Sharon meeting, saying it is just one of many that the United States will hold as the United States pushes Bush's vision of a cease-fire and the resumption of negotiations that would lead to a state for the Palestinians and security for Israel.
On Monday, Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Sharon, said the Israeli report on Arafat "is unequivocal evidence of the involvement of Arafat and the PLO in various connections with terrorist organizations, with Saudi money that supplies it, with Iraqis, with Syria. The network of terrorists connections (is) so evident and so clear, action must be taken against it."
But Michael Tarazi, the Palestinian Liberation Organization legal adviser, said the Israelis are trying to win a public relations victory without any hard facts.
The document Israel has put forward, he said, contains "no link to terror." He said there were actually only a few Palestinian Authority documents in the Israeli paper and they show only that Arafat "approved funds to go to members of his political party." He said the documents Israel claims are incriminating do not show what the funds were used for.
In a speech Monday to the Anti-Defamation League, Sharon called for "major institutional, structural reforms in the Palestinian Authority ... with full transparency and accountability" and a unification of its security forces, which are headed by different chiefs in the West Bank and Gaza.
Sharon has said that part of his plan envisions a physical buffer zone between the Israelis and Palestinians. There is a fence around Gaza, and Sharon has hinted that is what he plans for the West Bank, with limited crossing points.
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