Sharon retracts 'occupation' statement

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon retracted his comment that Israel is in “occupation” of the Palestinian territories. Meanwhile, a meeting between Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was postponed.

    Sharon says he did not mean to
    say that the Palestinians are
    living under occupation

    Sharon went into damage-control mode after outraging Israel’s right-wing parties that had conditionally approved the US-backed road map last Sunday.

      

    An Israeli parliamentary source quoted him as saying, "people did not understand me", and his office issued a statement in which, seeking to clarify his reference to "occupation", it said he meant "control over a Palestinian populace in disputed areas".

     

    "I think that the idea of keeping 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is the worst thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and also for the Israeli economy," he told his fellow Likud MPs on Monday.

     

    A possible meeting between the Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers on Wednesday was postponed, Aljazeera television reported.  

     

    The Palestinian and Israeli officials quoted by Aljazeera explained away the cancellation of the meeting, saying it was “due to full agendas of both sides” and that “the Palestinian side asked to put off the meeting till next Thursday.”  

     

    Syria seeks regional deal

     

    Shara wants a final regional
    settlement that will include Syria
    and Lebanon

    Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouq al Shara, called on Tuesday for the Israeli-Palestinian peace road map to be enlarged to include Syria and Lebanon in an attempt to settle the regional feud once and for all.

     

    Aljazeera's correspondent on the Greek island of Crete, Aktham Sulayman, reported that Shara asked for the road map "to be more comprehensive and deal with the Syrian and Lebanese tracks". 

                      

    "The road map... has to address the Lebanese and Syrian tracks," Shara stated on the sidelines of a Euro-Mediterranean conference on the Greek island of Crete.

     

    "The two tracks are united and they will be a part of the whole solution in the Middle East," he told reporters, adding that Syria did not oppose the road map as such, but wanted it to be expanded.

                      

    But Shara discounted suggestions there might be further, immediate Syrian involvement in the peace process - such as participation in the upcoming Middle East summit in Jordan - as mere speculation. 

     

    Washington had accused Syria of having opened its borders to pro-Iraqi fighters during the US-backed invasion of Iraq, and of hosting on-the-run Iraqi Baathists in its immediate aftermath. Both charges were denied by Damascus.


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