In a speech to members of the Israeli press in Tel Aviv, Sharon accused Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya on Thursday of failing to respect the road map and threatening unilateral measures. 

"We do not see the slightest attempt by the Palestinian Authority to take action against terrorism. That is why Israel has got to do what it has got to do," Sharon said. 

"I told the Palestinians that they do not have an unlimited amount of time," he said, squarely rejecting Quraya's demand for a series of goodwill measures before a resumption of negotiations. 

'Arbitrary timetable'

Speaking to reporters in Ram Allah, Quraya nevertheless said he believed Sharon still wanted to meet him, and announced that their two chiefs of staff would hold a preparatory meeting. 

Prime Minister  Ahmad Quraya
says he wants to meet Sharon

"I am not in favour of an arbitrary timetable, but our patience has limits," Sharon warned. "I may reach the conclusion that there is no reason to wait for another Palestinian government and another one, and I may take unilateral measures. 

"It is clear that we will not always be in all the places that we are now. That is the real political horizon for them and for us to reach a stable peace agreement, which starts with a ceasefire," he said. 

Building the wall

Less than two days after Washington took a rare measure by deducting almost $300 million from loan guarantees in protest at his own failure to implement the road map, a defiant Sharon vowed to speed up the construction of the West Bank barrier.

Israel will speed up building the
apartheid wall

"Today, we are speeding up the construction of the fence and we will not stop, it is vital for the security of the state and it is our responsibility," he said. 

Palestinian negotiations minister Saib Uraiqkat charged that Sharon's pledge to continue the same policies was further evidence of Israel's attempts to weasel out of the roadmap. 

He "is continuing his policy which aims to impose a reality on
the ground through continuing settlements and the building of the wall," Uraiqkat said. 

Geneva initiative

Sharon's tough line set a tense backdrop for the signing on
Monday in Geneva of an unofficial peace plan launched by Israeli left-wingers and Palestinian figures. 

The Geneva Initiative has forced Sharon to define his political
programme, but on Thursday he voiced his harshest criticism of the plan to date. 

"It is damaging and embarrassing for Israel, it is a mistake to
put on such a show and at the same time jeopardise a programme which is the only one that can bring a solution," he said, in reference to the road map.