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Bush Ends Mideast Tour; Mubarak Endorses Peace Effort


President Bush has ended his Middle East tour on a positive note, with a show of support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports the leaders spoke after seaside talks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

President Bush began his Mideast tour in Israel, where he sought to encourage the peace process.

He ended it in Egypt, one of only two Arab states that recognizes the state of Israel.

Relations between the Israeli and Egyptian governments have been tense lately. But President Mubarak says he supports Israel's efforts to reach a deal on the creation of a Palestinian state.

Speaking through a translator, he endorsed the goal of reaching an agreement by the end of the year.

"We are ready, hand in hand with the United States of America and the quartet and all other regional and international stakeholders and parties to work for the sake of a comprehensive and just peace, to put an end to this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to open new horizons for the Middle East," Mr. Mubarak said.

During a joint appearance before reporters at the conclusion of their consultations in Sharm El-Sheikh, President Bush said he believes peace is possible. But he warned it will not happen if Arab leaders turn away.

"I am optimistic an agreement can be reached, and the reason I am is because I believe the leadership of Israel and the leadership of the Palestinians is committed to a two state solution," Mr. Bush said. "And I know nations in the neighborhood are willing to help."

Mr. Bush said once again that he is committed to the process, and he said people in the region can rest assured he will remain engaged.

"If they wonder whether or not the American president when he says something, he actually means it," Mr. Bush said. "When I say I am coming back to stay engaged, I mean it. And when I say I am optimistic we can get a deal done, I mean what I am saying."

The talks in Sharm El-Sheikh dealt primarily with the peace process, but also covered the situation in Lebanon and Mr. Bush's call for more democratic reforms in the region.

The president said it is important to encourage presidential elections in Lebanon, which have been blocked by a larger dispute among political factions over the shape of the new government. He also called for Syria and Iran to end their interference in the process.

Mr. Bush's visit prompted some demonstrations and angry editorials in various newspapers. He said that is a vivid display of freedom of speech in Egypt. But he made clear more reforms are needed.

"And my hope is that the Egyptian government will build on these important steps and give the people of this proud nation a greater voice in your future," Mr. Bush said. "I think it will lead to peace and I think it will lead to justice."

President Bush traveled to Egypt from Saudi Arabia where he raised concerns with Saudi King Abdullah about the impact high oil prices are having on the U.S. economy. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president hopes that as a result of those conversations, OPEC will put more oil on the world market.

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