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Sharon Vows to Pursue Disengagement Plan - 2004-05-03


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is vowing to pursue his plan to withdraw settlers from the Gaza Strip, despite the defeat of his so-called disengagement plan in a non-binding vote of his Likud party.

Speaking to party lawmakers today (Monday), Mr. Sharon said Israeli voters chose Likud to bring peace and security to the Jewish state. He said he intends to carry out that mandate.

Sunday, nearly 60% of Likud party voters rejected the Sharon plan, which calls for the evacuation of all Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and small sections of the West Bank while consolidating Israeli control in other West Bank areas.

Mr. Sharon says he respects the voters' decision, and will consult with his cabinet ministers and coalition partners about what to do next.

Most of the Likud ballots were cast after two Palestinian gunmen shot and killed a pregnant Gaza settler and her four children. The two attackers were killed in a shootout with Israeli troops.

President Bush has expressed support for Mr. Sharon's withdrawal plan, and the White House says the Likud vote has not changed the president's view that it is an important step toward Middle East peace.

In the runup to Sunday's vote, Mr. Sharon said he viewed the referendum as a vote of confidence in his leadership.

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

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