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Israel licks wounds after pullout

Jerusalem, Sept. 30 (Reuters): Israeli leaders faced a barrage of criticism today after ending a siege of Yasser Arafat under White House pressure to avoid upsetting US plans for possible war on Iraq.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pulled Israeli tanks out of the Palestinian President’s battered West Bank compound today, ending a 10-day-old standoff that began after suicide bombings killed seven Israelis.

“When we made the (siege) decision two weeks ago we did not anticipate to what extent America had already started its countdown to an attack on Iraq, that it would get into a confrontation with the UN and Europe and could not suffer another confrontation,” an official said.

While Israel focused on its relations with its main ally and possible US curbs on its military activities, daily violence raged on in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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