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Sharon proposes revised withdrawal plan


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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will ask his government to approve a new plan for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, he announced Sunday.

Members of Sharon's Likud party turned down his previous withdrawal plan in a party referendum on May 2. (Full story)

Sharon said in a speech Sunday evening that he would put a revised plan to a vote of his coalition Cabinet next week.

Details of the plan have not been made public, but the Israeli newspaper Haaretz indicated Sharon's new plan will propose a withdrawal from Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in four stages, along with a withdrawal from a small number of isolated settlements in the West Bank.

The Cabinet and the Israeli Knesset (parliament) would have to approve each stage.

Sharon is likely to face strong opposition from many ministers within his Cabinet who are against the plan, but he predicted Sunday that the proposal would go through.

"You all know me, you know that when I fight for something right and correct, I carry it out," Sharon said. "I will do that also on the issue of separating from Gaza, and a few small settlements in Samaria. It is imperative for Israel and its continuing development, and that's what will be done."

Sharon's original plan called for the removal of all Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza and the dismantling of four settlements and outposts in the northern West Bank by 2005. (Original plan)

Supporters of Sharon's original plan, including Shimon Peres, head of the opposition Labor Party and a former prime minister, say it would help strengthen Israel and give the country more defensible borders. Opponents say it would reward terrorism.

After the plan was rejected by the Likud party, the so-called Mideast Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations urged Israel to follow through on the plan's provision for a full withdrawal from Gaza.

Representatives of each of the quartet participants agreed to "reaffirm our commitment to our shared vision of two states living side by side in peace and security," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters after a May 5 meeting. (Full story)

Palestinians opposed Sharon's withdrawal plan, saying it is unilateral and leaves out Palestinian interests.

Palestinians insist any steps should be made strictly within the context of the quartet-backed "road map" to peace. The road map outlines a series of steps leading to Palestinian statehood and peace with Israel by 2005.

CNN's Yoav Appel contributed to this report.


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