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Sharon: Tropps to Withdraw Soon

April 15, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Monday that troops will be out of all West Bank cities except for Ramallah and Bethlehem within a week.

Israel has no intention to stay in ``cities of terror,″ Sharon said in an interview with CNN.

Asked how quickly Israeli forces would be out of two of the towns where there had been the most fighting _ Nablus and Jenin in the northern West Bank _ Sharon said the withdrawal from Jenin would come in less than a week and in Nablus ``not more than a week.″

``Altogether, we are on our way out,″ Sharon said.

The two exceptions Sharon gave were in Bethlehem, where Israeli forces are engaged in a standoff with more than 200 armed men in the Church of the Nativity, and in Ramallah.

``We have problems in Bethlehem _ terrorists took shelter in the Church of the Nativity. Once they will be leaving ... we will be leaving,″ Sharon said.

Asked whether within a week Israel would be out of all areas that were part of the military incursion except Bethlehem, Sharon cut in, saying ``and Ramallah, unless those terrorists will be handed over to us or leave there.″

Those who killed Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in October 2001 remain in Ramallah, he said.

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