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Israeli defence minister to travel to France

Published on 05/03/2004

JERUSALEM, March 5 (AFP) - Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz is slated to depart Sunday for a three-day visit to France before embarking on a trip to the United States, his office said Friday.

In Paris, he will meet his French counterpart, Michel Alliot-Maris, with whom he last held talks in June 2003.

Mofaz will leave Paris on Wednesday for the United States. In a visit that will end the following Monday, he will meet with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

He will present Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for a unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians, including a pullout from 17 of the Gaza Strip’s 21 settlements and the completion of the controversial West Bank separation barrier.

The plan’s implementation should take a year, his office said.

The Israeli daily Maariv said Friday that Sharon would not order his promised Gaza evacuation before the US election in November and that Mofaz had told security officials the pullout would start in February or March 2005.

“This is wrong, the minister never linked the separation plan to the US polls,” his office said.

Sharon has been trying to get Bush’s crucial support for his plan by dispatching several Israeli officials to Washington.

The premier is hoping to go there by the end of March but no visit has yet been scheduled.


                                                              Subject: France news