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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 11:57 GMT
Likud seeks peace on its terms
Supporters hold placards that read
Likud is confident its man will win
The man currently leading the race to become Israel's next prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has promised concessions in the search for peace - but immediately set out conditions opposed by the Palestinians.

Mr Sharon, the leader of the right-wing opposition Likud party, reiterated his hardline position at a rally on Wednesday night to launch his election campaign.


We will demand that our interests are protected and that the Palestinians respect their commitments

Likud party leader Ariel Sharon
Opinion polls suggest he will comfortably defeat the incumbent Ehud Barak in the vote on 6 February.

Mr Sharon promised to bring "peace and security" and build a wide-based government.

"There will not be peace without concessions," he said.

But then he laid out terms long rejected by the Palestinians.

'A united Jerusalem'

"A government under my leadership will keep Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and the Jewish people, whole and united under Israeli sovereignty forever," Mr Sharon told supporters.

Likud leader Ariel Sharon
Flags and fireworks surrounded Mr Sharon at the rally
He also said a government led by him would not permit the return to present-day Israel of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced to leave their homes in the 1948 Israeli-Arab war.

"We will demand that our interests are protected and that the [Palestinians] respect their commitments," he said.

Earlier, Likud party officials confirmed that Mr Sharon had dismissed as irrelevant the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords - the basis of the current peace process.

"Oslo, of course, is dead, and died in practice a long time ago," said Mr Sharon's foreign policy advisor Zalman Shoval.

The US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright criticised Mr Sharon's comments.

She told AFP that she believed the seven-year-old framework for peace talks remained valid.

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