- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2005


CRAWFORD, Texas — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Texas yesterday ahead of his summit here today with President Bush.

The meeting between the two leaders on Mr. Bush’s ranch is expected to be dominated by renewed criticism of Israel’s proposed expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

Mr. Sharon was scheduled to meet late yesterday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before meeting Mr. Bush this morning.

Although Mr. Bush supports Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank plan has caused concern in Washington as the White House seeks to prod Israelis and Palestinians back on the U.S.-backed “road map” toward peace.

En route to Texas yesterday, Mr. Sharon expressed outrage after Palestinian militants fired dozens of mortar shells toward Israeli settlers and troop positions in the Gaza Strip, saying the attacks violated the Sharm el Sheik accords.

The mortar attacks came after three Palestinian youths were killed by the Israeli military.

The incidents have ignited tensions on the eve of the Bush-Sharon meeting.

This is Mr. Sharon’s 10th visit to the United States since Mr. Bush became president, but his first invitation to the private Texas ranch.

U.S. officials have emphasized that the Gaza withdrawal will be the main subject at today’s meeting.

“Monday’s meeting is a good opportunity to talk about moving forward on the disengagement plan and getting the parties focused on moving forward on the road map,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said last week.

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