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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314631 Palestinians Peace (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/31/2004

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PALESTINIANS / PEACE (L-O)

NUMBER=2-314631

BYLINE=SONJA PACE

DATELINE=JERUSALEM

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has cautiously welcomed a possible Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, but only as part of a broader peace effort. V-O-A's Sonja Pace reports from Jerusalem.

TEXT: The words were carefully chosen and with lots of conditions, but it was the closest thing to a direct endorsement yet by Prime Minister Qureia of Israel's disengagement plan.

Mr. Qureia told Palestinian lawmakers in the West Bank city of Ramallah, that while a Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian land is welcome, it should be done in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and as part of broader peace negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is promoting his go-it-alone disengagement plan, which he says is necessary because peace talks with the Palestinians have gone nowhere. Mr. Sharon is proposing that Israel withdraw its troops and settlements from most, if not all, of Gaza and disband some settlements in the West Bank. Final details of such a withdrawal have yet to be disclosed.

Palestinians fear that by disengaging unilaterally, Israel will create new facts on the ground that will effectively preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr. Qureia said if Israel goes ahead with its disengagement plan, it should withdraw from all of the Gaza Strip and give up control of international border crossings, airports, and ports there as well. He added that Jewish settlers removed from Gaza should not be relocated to West Bank settlements.

He also stressed that an Israeli withdrawal should be the first step toward resuming peace talks and should be followed by an Israeli pullout from the entire West Bank.

The Palestinian Prime Minister also spoke out strongly against suicide bomb attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilians. He said such attacks only foster more hatred and are an obstacle to peace.

Mr. Qureia spoke in Ramallah as a team of U-S special envoys returns to the region to discuss the Sharon disengagement plan and prospects for reviving the stalled peace talks. (SIGNED)

NEB/SP/AWP/RAE



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