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Bush: Time is Right to Relaunch Middle East Peace Talks


President Bush says the time is right to relaunch Middle East peace talks, but acknowledged the path to peace would be difficult.

Mr. Bush made the comment in remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday, at a Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

The one-day conference is aimed at resurrecting the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a seven-year freeze. Representatives from nearly 50 countries and international organizations are attending the meeting outside Washington.

Mr. Bush addressed participants at a dinner Monday at the State Department and said the common goal is to have two democratic states living side-by-side in peace and security.

The conference will be the first time in more than a decade that the Israelis will meet with many of the Arab representatives and the Arab League. Saudi Arabia and Syria - neither of which recognize Israel - are among those countries attending.

Mr. Bush met separately at the White House Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The leaders are meeting together Tuesday for three-way talks.

Monday, Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas both said they are hopeful the conference will lead to serious negotiations.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Israeli and Palestinian officials are working on the terms of a document that will chart the course of peace negotiations after the Annapolis meeting.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the United States hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before President Bush leaves office in early 2009.

The Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, says it will reject any decisions from the Annapolis conference.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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