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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will visit the United States on April 12, his first visit to the since President George W. Bush's reelection. The visit was originally scheduled for late March, but was postponed at Sharon's request until after the Knesset vote on the budget.

Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas is slated to be in Washington ahead of Sharon, sometime this month, and will meet the prime minister before his trip.

Both Sharon and Abu Mazen have their own expectations and agendas for their respective meetings in the U.S. capital. The Palestinians hope to revive understandings drawn up between Bush and Abu Mazen when the latter was prime minister under Yasser Arafat.

Government sources in Jerusalem said Sharon will be focusing his efforts on strengthening understandings with Bush from last April with respect to Israel's ongoing control of large settlement blocs, and concerning a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel.

Jerusalem expects disengagement, the situation in Lebanon and the war against terror to figure prominently in Sharon's upcoming visit, and anticipates that Bush will not pressure the Israeli leader to renew negotiations with the Palestinians on a final status agreement. Sharon is expected to hand over to the U.S. administration intelligence data revealing serious deficiencies in the reorganization of the Palestinian security forces.

Meanwhile, PA Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa is focusing his efforts on strengthening ties with members of Congress, the American Jewish community and the media.

Republican Senator Richard Lugar, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has announced an initiative stating that a terror attack will not derail the peace process as long as it can be shown that the PA is not involved in terror and is doing its utmost to prevent attacks.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres is slated to leave Wednesday for Spain to take part in an international conference of heads of governments on the war on terror. The prime minister of Luxembourg and current head of the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and King Mohammed VI of Morocco are among the leaders who are also expected to attend, together with the prime ministers of Poland, Greece, Romania, Croatia and Argentina. The Palestinians will be represented by Civil Affairs Minister Mohammmed Dahlan and negotiations chief Saeb Erekat.

Peres is expected to ask the conference for immediate economic aid to the Palestinians, to make proposals to create jobs and upgrade transit between Israel and Gaza, and to discuss the possibility of transferring setters' hothouses to the Palestinians after the disengagement.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is to meet tomorrow in Washington with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Yesterday Shalom met in New York with Senator Hillary Clinton, who told him she had demanded that the U.S. impose sanctions on Syria to force it to leave Lebanon.