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Palestinians Reject Bush Stance on Israeli Settlements - 2004-04-15


Palestinian officials say they reject President Bush's decision to support Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and some small settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Mr. Bush is the first U.S. president to legitimize Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. He said "we as Palestinians can not accept it -- we reject it -- we refuse it."

President Bush met with Mr. Sharon Wednesday and welcomed his plan, calling it "historic and courageous."

Mr. Bush called for Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a final settlement with "mutually agreed changes" to boundaries for two independent states.

He added such an agreement would have to take into account the existence of large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Mr. Bush also said he believes Palestinian refugees should settle in a future Palestinian state, rather than Israel. He added that Israel's security barrier in parts of the West Bank should be temporary.

Mr. Sharon said he believes his unilateral disengagement plan could create conditions for a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

A spokesman for the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement that the UN chief strongly believes Israel and the Palestinians should refrain from taking steps that would pre-empt the outcome of peace negotiations based on relevant Security Council resolutions.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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