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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 19:06 GMT
Sharon prepares barrier defence
By James Reynolds
BBC correspondent, Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon is confident any alternative barrier plans will be made internally
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has held a meeting to work on Israel's international line of defence of the barrier in the West Bank.

The meeting comes in the run up to a hearing on the barrier's legality to be held at the International Court of Justice at The Hague next month.

The case was referred to the court in December by the UN General Assembly and the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinians say the fence is illegal because it is on occupied land.

The barrier that Israel is building inside the West Bank has become a subject of great political and now legal debate.

So Israel is busy getting its defences ready.

Defending action

The prime minister and his senior cabinet colleagues have held a meeting with the legal task force appointed to prepare Israel's position in front of the International Court of Justice.

Mr Sharon has laid out the outlines of Israel's stance.

According to a statement released by his office, Mr Sharon told the taskforce that the route of Israel's barrier would not change as a result of Palestinian or UN demands including those from the courts.

The barrier has a new official name: "The terrorism prevention fence"
A re-assessment of the route, he said, would only come about as a result of internal Israeli deliberations.

And broadly Israel is currently pursuing two strategies right now.

The first is legal.

The argument that the international court has no right to impose a ruling on what Israel sees as an internal matter.

The second is more political; a public relations defence of Israel's need to have a fence to stop suicide bombers.

As part of this strategy Israel has decided to rename the barrier.

It used to be called the security fence but officials felt that the name did not work abroad.

So now the barrier has a new official name "the terrorism prevention fence".

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