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Sharon to make bid for Likud leadership

Ariel Sharon officially quit Israel's national unity government on Sunday and said he would try to take over leadership of the dominant Likud bloc. Sharon accused the Likud leader, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, of undermining the Jewish state's security by edging toward Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The 62-year-old Sharon said he will seek to take control of the Likud and the national unity government, which includes the center-left Labor Party.

The former defense minister and military commander said he resigned for ideological, not personal, reasons. But asked whether he would contest Shamir and his allies for leadership of the Likud, which could turn into a run for prime minister, Sharon answered with a simple, "Yes."

He pledged to derail Shamir's peace initiative, which calls for negotiations with Palestinians leading to elections in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and he outlined his own plan.

The United States is trying to arrange an Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Cairo to prepare for such elections, but Sharon said Israel should tell the Bush administration it is not interested.

"I'm going to start a long march from town to town, from place to place, in Israel and abroad," Sharon said.

"I believe in peace. I think that Israel should make an effort to make a peace. We have to move forward," said Sharon, a former tank commander and architect of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. During that controversial military operation, he approved the entry of Lebanese Christian militia into two Palestinian refugee camps that resulted in a massacre.

The Sharon plan proposes:

Opening the Israel-Jordan border for six months to visitors from both sides. "I am sure that hundreds of thousands of people would be moving" across the border, he said. "They will buy. They will sell. They will know each other."

This proposal is intended to bolster his view that Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population, is Palestine, and that there should not be a second Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Turning the Gaza Strip, occupied by Palestinian refugees, into a model industrial zone. Sharon offered no details.

Obtaining a "clear commitment" from Jordan that it will not permit military forces from other Arab nations to come onto its soil.

Ending the Palestinian uprising and encouraging the free world to pressure Arab countries to expel terrorists who are "murdering Jews and Arabs." Sharon did not explain what specific steps he would take to stop the uprising.

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