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Bush, Sharon to Discuss Mideast Peace, Gaza Withdrawal


President Bush hosts Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his Texas ranch Monday, in a meeting aimed at underscoring strong U.S. support for Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The two leaders, who are beginning their talks shortly, also are expected to discuss Israel's controversial plan to build more than 3,500 new homes in the occupied West Bank, as well as the latest flare-up in Mideast violence.

Analysts say a strong U.S. endorsement of the Gaza pullout could ease domestic pressure on Mr. Sharon from settlers and other right-wing opponents of the plan.

For his part, Mr. Sharon says he will raise the issue of the latest Palestinian rocket attacks on Jewish settlements.

The Israeli army says Palestinian militants have fired 70 mortars and rockets since Saturday in retaliation for Israel's killing of three teen-agers on the Gaza-Egypt border.

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