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Powell Briefed Sharon Before Mitchell Report

Israel Radio is reporting that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prior to the publication of the Mitchell Report which calls for a freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza strip.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has welcomed the Mitchell recommendations particularly a freeze on new settlements.

But Sharon spokesperson, Raanan Gissin said, "Powell's recommendations fell short of an adoption of the Mitchell committee's recommendation for a complete freeze of settlement construction, including natural growth” and added that he thinks it is possible to create a "bridging proposal."

Sharon had earlier expressed reservations about some of the proposals saying, "The Mitchell report is acceptable to us in principle. We had comments which we conveyed and they are quite clear."

The Palestinian leader has so far not responded to Powell's comments or to a bridging proposal.

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