Sharon vows to develop settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed to develop Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights, one month after withdrawing troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip.

    Members of Sharon's Likud party opposed the Gaza pullout

    His comments come after he postponed for a week a parliamentary showdown with members of his own Likud party still fuming over Israel's Gaza pullout.


    "My government's development projects include not only the Galilee, Negev and Jerusalem, but also the large settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley and the Golan," Sharon told lawmakers in an address to parliament on Monday.


    He reiterated that Palestinian resistance groups should be disbanded.


    "We have no intention of causing suffering to the Palestinian population, but the Palestinians must understand that only a determined fight against terrorism, including the dismantling of its organisations, will ensure the calm to which we all aspire," Sharon said.


    "The government's objective is to implement the road map, the only political plan today," the Israeli leader said.


    Political infighting


    Israeli political infighting over new cabinet nominations that Sharon had planned to present for Knesset approval and a surge in violence with the Palestinians have dampened peace hopes rekindled by the withdrawal.


    "The government's objective is to implement the road map, the only political plan today"

    Ariel Sharon,
    Israeli prime minsister

    Members of his own Likud party who opposed the pullout, saying it would encourage Palestinian attacks, had threatened to vote against new cabinet nominations, potentially embarrassing Sharon or even pushing him towards early elections.


    Faced with defeat in a major test of strength, Sharon on Monday bought more time, saying in broadcast remarks at a meeting of Likud's parliamentary faction that he had agreed with party leaders to delay the vote "for a week or so".




    Sharon had planned to ask parliament to approve the nomination of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to replace rival Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned as finance minister in protest over the Gaza withdrawal Israel completed on 12 September.


    Sharon wants to appoint Ehud
    Olmert as finance minister 

    The other appointments are for Sharon allies Zeev Boim as immigration minister and Roni Bar-On as trade minister.


    "In another week, I intend to present [to parliament] the same [nominations] I was to have brought today," Sharon told the Likud faction.


    Sharon is expected to deliver a state of the nation speech to parliament, which was opening its winter session, at about 4pm (1400 GMT).


    Palestinian statehood


    There was no sign he intended to announce new peace moves.


    The Israeli leader said there could be no talks on Palestinian statehood until Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas disarmed fighters.


    Abbas has called for an end to violence, and citing fears of civil war, said he wanted to co-opt armed men rather than confront them.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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