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Sharon signals willingness to compromise
( 2003-11-13 14:58) (Agencies)

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Wednesday he is prepared to make compromises for the sake of peace but would not make concessions on security issues.

Speaking at an Israeli military base, Sharon referred only in general terms to the three years of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He did not comment on the new Palestinian government, headed by Ahmed Qureia, that was sworn in earlier Wednesday.

"We are prepared to make painful compromises for the sake of real peace," Sharon said, but ruled out compromises over security. He did not elaborate, but insisted the Palestinians must crack down on violent groups.

One lesson from the three years of violence, he said, was that "the Palestinians have come to realize that they cannot force us to surrender through violence, terrorism and incitement."

Palestinians contend Israel's military measures and restrictions are responsible for the continuing violence.

Sharon hotly rejected international criticism of Israel's handling of the conflict.

"Those who reject Israel's right to use force to defend itself like any normal nation are also those who deny Israel's right to exist in an independent, democratic, free state in its ancestral homeland," he said, accusing Israel's critics of adopting "a new form of anti-Semitism."

Sharon spoke before more than 1,500 people air force personnel and activists from the United Israel Appeal-Jewish Federations of Canada, who were visiting the Palmahim air force base on Israel's coastline south of Tel Aviv.

During his speech, Sharon appealed to the Canadians to increase immigration to Israel.

"The future of Israel depends on as many immigrants that can come over here," he said. "With all the problems here, everyone has a roof over his head."

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