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Bush to Meet With Palestinian President Abbas Thursday


U.S. President George Bush welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House Thursday. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports it is part of Mr. Bush's efforts to end Israeli-Palestinian violence.

President Bush wants an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before he leaves office in less than nine months.

President Abbas wants that deal to include specific timetables for the creation of a Palestinian state. On his way to Washington, Mr. Abbas told reporters that he also wants an agreement resolving the fate of Jerusalem, disputed Israeli settlements, Palestinian refugees and the final borders of a Palestinian state.

Before his talks with the Palestinian leader, President Bush met Wednesday with Jordan's King Abdullah. Jordanian officials said the king also pressed for fixed timetables in any peace deal.

The Jordanian Embassy said King Abdullah called on all parties to honor commitments made at a Middle East summit that President Bush hosted just outside Washington six months ago.

The Embassy statement said King Abdullah told the president that Israel should stop building new settlements on disputed land, lift restrictions on the movements of Palestinians, and refrain from further actions that could jeopardize negotiations.

As it was a private breakfast between the president and king, White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino said she would not discuss details of their conversation.

"What I can say is that the president enjoys good relations with many of the leaders in the Middle East," she said. "He is pleased that there is engagement and an effort to have input into advancing the peace process."

King Abdullah and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met separately with President Abbas ahead of his White House meeting.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said despite the public perception that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have made little progress, he said there has been movement toward an agreement.

"We see it as a process that is moving forward," he said. "The Israelis and Palestinians are engaging. And frankly they are the ones that are driving the process as it should be. They are the ones who have to feel comfortable with the agreements, and ultimately present them to their publics."

Secretary Rice travels again to Israel and the West Bank early next month in advance of President Bush's trip to Israel to mark the nation's 60th anniversary. Mr. Bush is expected to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt on that mid-May trip as well.

The president is expected to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik. White House officials would like to make that meeting a broader summit with Arab leaders backing Israeli/Palestinian talks, but that is dependent largely on progress between two sides that still appear far apart on central issues.

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