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Burns: Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire First Priority

One of two U.S. envoys dispatched to the Middle East by President Bush is in Cairo. William Burns said the Bush administration is committed to the creation of a Palestinian state but he says the first goal will be to achieve a cease-fire.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns traveled to Cairo from Israel to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Thursday.

Mr. Burns said the two men discussed how the United States and Egypt can - in his words - "work together to try to help produce a durable cease-fire between the Palestinians and Israelis, as a first step toward the emergence of two states living side by side in peace and security."

However, Mr. Burns made it clear that achieving those goals will be a long and painstaking process. "I think this is going to be a very challenging, very difficult, process," he said. "We have no illusions about that. But, we are going to continue to do our part and do everything we can to help the parties make the tough choices that ultimately they are going to have to make to make this process work."

Mr. Burns, who indicated the administration's goal of a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis will take years, not months. He said the U.S. effort will be sustained and serious. Mr. Burns said the Bush administration is "committed to seeing the process all the way through."

Mr. Burns is one of two U.S. envoys dispatched by President Bush to the Middle East. Retired U.S. Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni is in Israel where he has been meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Burns will leave Cairo Friday for Jordan, where he is scheduled to meet with King Abdullah. He will then travel to Saudi Arabia.