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Kofi Annan calls on Israel to take down barrier

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speaks Thursday at the annual newspaper editor's conference in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speaks Thursday at the annual newspaper editor's conference in Tel Aviv, Israel.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's construction of a barrier thwarts the peace process in the Middle East, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday, and the expansion of the barricade should stop and be reversed.

The barrier's route stretches north to south, much of it inside the Green Line -- the pre-1967 border between Israel and the West Bank, which was part of Jordan at the time of the Six Day War -- but it juts into the West Bank in places.

"Israel has repeatedly stated that the barrier is a temporary measure. However, the scope of construction and the amount of occupied West Bank land that is either being requisitioned for its route or that will end up between the barrier and the Green Line are of serious concern and have implications for the future," Annan said.

Annan's report was requested by the assembly in an October 21 resolution. He said the barrier, a network of fences, walls, razor wire and trenches, also is becoming a barrier to the road map to peace.

"In the midst of the road map process, when each party should be making good-faith confidence-building gestures, the barrier's construction in the West Bank cannot, in this regard, be seen as anything but a deeply counterproductive act," Annan said.

Annan said he recognizes Israel's right to fight terror, but emphasized counterterror measures should not contradict international law and damage the longer-term prospects for peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Thursday that he supported the road map plan -- which was drawn up by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia and calls for both Palestinians and Israelis to take steps aimed at ending the conflict and establishing an independent Palestine by 2005.

The prime minister spoke of the "painful concessions" that Israel is prepared to make to meet the plan, but insisted dismantling the barrier will not be one of them.

"Israel will have to make painful concessions -- it is clear that we will not remain in all the places we are in now," he said. "If the Palestinians would not have started with terrorism we would not have built the security fence but the work on the fence will be accelerated -- it is essential to Israel's security."

The Palestinians call the barrier a land grab, saying construction around some Jewish settlements does not follow the so-called Green Line.

The new barrier will follow the old line, but at some points will veer into the West Bank, enclosing some 77-square kilometers of occupied land. At least 11 Palestinian villages will end up on the Israeli side of the barrier, according to, a nonpartisan international policy research group.

Israel has built 93 miles (150 km) of the barrier in the north. When finished the barrier will stretch 428 miles (690 km) at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion -- a little more than $3.5 million per mile.

In October, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs William Burns called on Israelis to stop settlement activity and the construction of the barrier, insisting it "undermines Israeli and Palestinian interests."

Compromise and concessions

Israeli state radio reported Friday that the Israeli Defense Ministry drafted a list of settlement outposts to uproot from the West Bank, beginning as early as next week.

Recent statements by government officials, however, indicate that other outposts will receive legal status, in defiance of the road map -- a plan for peace drawn up by the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

Israel Radio reported that the Defense Ministry decided on outposts slated for removal, but it did not elaborate on which ones were on the list. Settlers would likely try to appeal the decision, the report stated.

The Israeli government has estimated the outposts -- usually beginning with a few trailers that gradually expand to full-blown housing settlements -- number more than 40. The Israeli group Peace Now lists more than 100, more than half of them established since May 2001.

The report on a decision to dismantle some of the outposts comes ahead of this weekend's visit by U.S. Undersecretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns, and as the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers prepare for their first meeting, expected in the next two weeks.

CNN Correspondent Chris Burns contributed to this report.

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