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Senate supports plan to leave Gaza Strip

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Thursday to embrace President Bush’s support of Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to abandon his country’s Gaza Strip settlements.

By 95-3, senators approved nonbinding language that also said “it is unrealistic” for any peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians to require Israel to return to the borders that existed before the 1967 Mideast war.

In addition, the resolution said a Palestinian state would have to be part of a “just, fair and realistic framework” for peace — with Palestinian refugees settling there, not in Israel.

The Senate’s action came a day after the House approved a similar measure by a one-sided 407-9 roll call.

Both chamber’s resolutions endorsed Bush’s April 14 letter to Sharon in which Bush backed Sharon’s plan to remove all Jewish settlements and some military installations from Gaza, and some military bases and settlements from the West Bank.

Palestinians want all Israeli settlements dismantled.

The Senate resolution said Palestinians must stop “armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere,” and must halt terrorism.

Voting against the resolution were Sens. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.; James Jeffords, I-Vt.; and John Sununu, R-N.H. Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. John Kerry, D-Mass., did not vote.

“No one should be naive enough to think this resolution will move the (peace) process further one centimeter,” Byrd said.


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