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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Israeli premier threatens Arafat
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon: Arafat should not "feel immune" to being targeted
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has given a thinly-veiled warning that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat could be targeted for assassination.

Mr Sharon told Israeli newspapers that both Mr Arafat and the leader of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah should not "feel immune".

"Anyone who kills a Jew or harms an Israeli citizen, or sends people to kill Jews, is a marked man," he said.

The security cabinet decided last year in principle to "remove" Mr Arafat.

'Arafat has no insurance'

The security cabinet decision to "remove" Mr Arafat prompted a storm of criticism from the international community.

Mr Sharon later said he had no plans to kill Mr Arafat and he has also acknowledged he has promised the United States not to harm him.

Arafat has no insurance policy
Ariel Sharon

But he again referred to Mr Arafat in a series of interviews published on Thursday and Friday to mark the Jewish Passover holiday.

"Arafat has no insurance policy... everyone already knows that Arafat is an obstacle to any progress," he told Israel's Maariv newspaper.

Mr Sharon has repeatedly accused Mr Arafat of being responsible for the deaths of Israeli civilians in attacks.

The Palestinian leader, who has been holed up for two years in his battered Ramallah headquarters, has always denied having supported attacks on Israelis.

Gaza pull-out

Mr Sharon also said his controversial Israeli "disengagement plan" was in Israeli interests.

He said that he would withdraw settlements from all of Gaza but hold onto a military patrol road along the border with Egypt. Four West Bank settlements would also be evacuated.

We need to leave Gaza and not be responsible for what happens there anymore
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
He gave no exact timetable for withdrawal, saying merely that he hoped that by this time next year Israel would be in the midst of disengagement.

"We need to leave Gaza and not be responsible for what happens there anymore," he told Maariv.

"I suggest you take me seriously. I have the power to do this."

Mr Sharon also talked about his legal situation, dismissing speculation over his possible indictment in a corruption scandal.

"My hands are clean. I believe in my full and complete innocence, and believe there won't be an indictment," Mr Sharon told Haaretz newspaper.

Mr Sharon is due to hold talks with US President George W Bush in Washington on 14 April on the Gaza pull-out plan.

In May his party, Likud, will hold a referendum among party members on the issue.


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