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Sharon Lays Down Terms for Israel’s Withdrawal from Lebanon

Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said today that Israel will not withdraw its forces from Lebanon until it has a written agreement with the Lebanese government for security arrangements in the 45-kilometer zone north of the Israeli border in which the Israeli army will participate as well as the Lebanese army.

Sharon laid down his terms in an appearance before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. He outlined a series of demands which he said must be met before Israeli troops are pulled out of Lebanon. The security arrangements must be implements and the process of normalization begun between the two countries, he said.

According to Sharon, “After 7,000 terrorists evacuate Lebanese territory, the Syrian army will evacuate the Lebanon mountains and concentrate in the Bekaa valley. A multinational force will replace the Syrian force. At the next stage, a prisoner exchange will take place and Israel will be given the bodies of her dead.”

Only at that stage will the Israel Defense Force withdraw to the 45-kilometer security line, which it will hold until a security agreement with Lebanon is reached. The agreement should include the presence of the Lebanese army in the south and joint supervision arrangements by the IDF and the Lebanese army, Sharon said.

Labor MK Yossi Sarid, a committee member, objected. He said Israel should withdraw forthwith to the 45-kilometer line and abandon grandiose illusions which have nothing to do with security. He was attacked for “weakness” by Likud MKs Ehud Olmert, Yosef Rom and Benny Shalita. They insisted that Israel was now at the point of extracting significant political benefits from the war in Lebanon.

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