Sunday, 19 January, 2003, 10:23 GMT
Sharon rubbishes peace plan
Ariel Sharon repeated that Yasser Arafat had to go
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said an international plan for Middle East peace should not be taken seriously.
In an interview with Newsweek magazine, he said he was only ready to accept the concept of a Palestinian state provided that Israel controlled its external borders.
Mr Sharon again stressed that he wanted Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat removed from any position of influence.
Israel has a general election scheduled for 28 January, when Mr Sharon's Likud will be challenged by Labour, whose leader Amram Mitzna favours immediate talks with the Palestinians.
Mr Sharon has adopted a hard line, demanding a full cessation of violence before any moves towards peace with the Palestinians.
Plan is 'nothing'
He told Newsweek magazine that he discounted a "road map" resolution envisaging the creation of a Palestinian state within three years.
That plan has been pushed by the so-called Quartet of the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia.
But Mr Sharon said: "The Quartet is nothing! Don't take it seriously."
There was another plan that might work, but it had to start with the removal of Mr Arafat, he told the magazine.
If that happened and was followed by other changes, Mr Sharon said he would consider moves towards a Palestinian state.
He told Newsweek: "I am ready, if they have taken steps against terror, to recognise a fully demilitarised Palestinian state without final borders - having only police equipped with light weapons.
"Israel will control the external borders and will have the right to fly over the territory."
Then, if there was "no terror whatsoever", a final decision on borders could be taken, he said.
Mr Mitzna told the same magazine that polls indicated that most Israelis backed his initiative for talks or a unilateral separation - such as a border fence - by Israel if negotiations failed.
But he accepted the same polls showed that voters still backed Likud.
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