U.S. President George W. Bush soon will send a letter to Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia in which, he said, "will explain my views, and we will expand dialogue between the United States and Palestinians."

Bush told Jordan's King Abdullah about the letter during a meeting between the two in Washington yesterday. Bush said he would clarify that the United States believes that final-status agreement issues must be negotiated between the two sides.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday opened a campaign to persuade the European community that he is determined to carry out the disengagement plan. He said that it will take a few weeks to make changes in the plan in order "to overcome obstacles." He told a group of visiting EU ministers that the Erez industrial zone in northern Gaza, where numerous attacks have been carried out against Israel, would be evacuated in addition to the rest of the Gaza Strip.

The head of the National Security Council, Giora Eiland, presented a comprehensive regional plan to the United States a few weeks ago, according to a report published in Yedioth Ahronoth yesterday. The plan calls for Egypt to transfer 600 square kilometers of territory in northern Sinai (the former Yamit region) to the Palestinians in order to expand the Gaza Strip. In exchange, Israel will transfer 200 square kilometers in the Negev highlands in the area of Paran, to Egypt, which in return will be allowed to build a tunnel between the Sinai and Jordan. U.S. officials who were presented with the plan dismissed it.

Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz last night signed orders to evacuate three illegal West Bank outposts - Mitzpeh Asaf, Givat Hadegel and Negohot. The evacuation will be carried out at the army's discretion once the settlers have had a chance to appeal the decision.

Evacuating illegal outposts is one of the political steps Sharon can take without endangering the coalition. The right-wing parties have threatened to leave the government if permanent settlements are evacuated, but not if outposts are dismantled. Sharon usually takes such steps prior to traveling to Washington in order to show that he is keeping his promises to Bush. However, Sharon will only decide at the beginning of the week whether to go ahead with his next planned visit to Washington which is set for May 17.