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Friday, December 10, 2004; Page A34

Sharon Wins Key Vote, Boosting Pullout Hopes

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon easily won a crucial party vote to reinforce his shaky government and safeguard his plan to pull troops out of Gaza, party officials announced Thursday.

Sharon's proposal to invite the main opposition Labor Party and some Orthodox Jewish parties into the governing coalition passed by 62 percent to 38 percent, ensuring a solid majority for his plan in the face of internal opposition from his Likud Party.

Cabinet minister Israel Katz announced the final count of the vote in the Likud Central Committee.

A loss in the Central Committee could have forced new elections and jeopardized the Gaza withdrawal, a centerpiece of efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians after Yasser Arafat's death.

The win cleared the way to add Labor, which is solidly in favor of the Gaza pullout and resumption of peace negotiations, to the ruling coalition.

Also Thursday, a Palestinian leader survived an Israeli missile strike on his car in Gaza. It was Israel's first assassination attempt in the Palestinian territories since Arafat died in a hospital near Paris last month.


QUITO, Ecuador -- Ecuador's Congress fired the entire Supreme Court after President Lucio Gutierrez accused magistrates of favoring the opposition and asked lawmakers to replace them.

GUATEMALA CITY -- An international court has ordered Guatemala to pay a record sum of almost $8 million in compensation to survivors of a 1982 army-led massacre of hundreds of civilians in the country's Maya Indian heartland.


LONDON -- Security services have thwarted a planned attack on London similar to the March 11 train bombings in Madrid by Islamic extremists, the British capital's police chief said Thursday.

"Thank God to date, and we have had to work extremely hard, we've thwarted attacks," Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens told the BBC.

Asked if his force had stopped a strike on the scale of the Spanish attack, he added, "Yes. I can't discuss it because of court proceedings -- but yes, we have stopped a Madrid."

PRAGUE -- Five soldiers from a unit that had recently returned from Afghanistan were killed when their vehicle was struck by a train at a rail crossing in the eastern Czech Republic, officials said.

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