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Blair, Sharon Poised to Revive Roadmap

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed on Wednesday to move forward the roadmap peace plan that offers solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking at a joint press conference after meeting with Sharon in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Blair called Israel's disengagement plan including a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip an opportunity to revive the internationally-brokered Mideast peace roadmap which charts reciprocal steps towards a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Blair said that the proposed Mideast conference scheduled for February 2005 in London was aimed at helping the disengagement " pave the way" for implementing the roadmap, which never progressed beyond its launch in June 2003.

Sharon, meanwhile, insisted that the Palestinians must end violence before re-starting peace talks on the Palestinian statehood.

Sharon said that Israel would not attend the London conference since it is aimed at strengthening new Palestinian leadership and supporting the Palestinian reforms following the Jan. 9 election, although Israel "ascribes great importance to the meeting".

Blair, who arrived Jerusalem for a 24-hour visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, is also set to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres.

He will head to the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

(Xinhua News Agency December 23, 2004)

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