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The bullets stop working for Sharon.

ISRAELI PM Ariel Sharon yesterday climbed down on his ceasefire demands.

The hardline leader - under pressure from all sides in his nation after one of its bloodiest weeks ever - dropped his vow not to talk to the Palestinians until a week had passed without violence.

Instead, he said: "Negotiations for a ceasefire will be under fire."

But his aides threatened a huge escalation in violence if Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did not try to halt attacks on Israel.

One source said: "We're saying we'll talk to you under fire, but if you attack we'll give you so much fire that you'll beg for us to stop."

In turn, the Palestinians demanded an end to Israeli attacks on their settlements and refugee camps.

Arafat's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said: "Sharon and his government have to stop their massacres against Palestinian civilians, cities, villages and refugee camps. There is no military solution."

Sharon is now facing his most difficult days since taking power, with his popularity at a record low.

Left-wingers have blasted his reliance on military might to tackle the Palestinian conflict, while right-wingers are furious he has not used more force to wipe out the threat.

One government source said yesterday the right-wingers' pressure was most likely to sway Sharon and chances for peace were slim.

He said: "Israeli public opinion wants Israel to use more violence and the other side wants more violence from their own people. They want more suicide attacks."

Battles continued yesterday, but on a smaller scale than recent days.
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 10, 2002
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