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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Press diplomatic on Sharon visit
Israeli papers see Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's talks in London as cordial but lacking in real progress on key areas of disagreement.

"Blair made clear to Sharon: We are your best friends in Europe," says Yediot Aharonot.

"Yet despite the smiles and the warm atmosphere, the objectives decided on the eve of visit were not achieved: Britain will not boycott Arafat, and it seems will not freeze Hamas assets in Europe," the paper says.

It adds that Mr Sharon in turn expressed reservations about the Palestinian cease-fire.

"This is a cease-fire that will enable them to re-arm in order to prepare terrorist operations in the future," the paper quotes him as saying.

Maariv also sees Yasser Arafat as the main stumbling block.

"Sharon asked Blair to sever relations with Arafat. The British government opposed this," it says.

An intimate meeting between friends
Israeli official in Ha'aretz

It adds that Mr Blair tasked Foreign Secretary Jack Straw with passing on this message.

Yet another bone of contention is picked up by Ha'aretz.

"Sharon told Blair that construction of the West Bank security fence will continue despite international opposition," the paper says.

Looking on the bright side, it goes on to quote a senior Israeli official as saying that, despite all the differences, the Sharon-Blair dinner at No 10 Downing Street was "an intimate meeting between friends".

Polite

The Jerusalem Post focuses on Mr Sharon's talks with the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

It quotes a senior member of the Sharon delegation as saying Mr Straw praised Mr Sharon for his "courageous steps" in implementing the road map, despite the ongoing "war of terror".

The official said the meeting with Straw was "very friendly" and that it involved "a good exchange".

But, the paper adds, the source was "unable to report a meeting of minds on the most contentious issues".

"Straw politely but firmly rejected Sharon's appeal to the British government to cease its contacts with Yasser Arafat," the paper says.

Sharon, in turn, "politely but firmly rejected an appeal by Straw to cease work on the security fence".

The paper reported a measure of agreement on the need to release Palestinian prisoners, with Sharon accepting this in principle.

"However, he was adamant that those who have blood on their hands would not be released," the Jerusalem Post adds.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.





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