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Bush 'Frustrated' by Mideast Violence - 2002-03-20

President Bush says he is 'frustrated' by the level of violence in the Middle East, following another suicide bombing in northern Israel. Mr. Bush says Palestinian leaders must do more to stop the violence.

President Bush says Middle East Envoy Anthony Zinni is making some progress toward a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians. The president says the United States is pressing forward, despite his frustration that some people are still using violence to block a peaceful settlement. "I am frustrated by the violence in the Middle East and so are a lot of people who live in the Middle East," he said. "I know there are some people who do not want us to achieve any kind of peaceful settlement of a long-standing dispute and they are willing to use terrorist means to disrupt any progress that is being made."

President Bush says General Zinni is telling both Israelis and Palestinians to work hard toward a security agreement that would eventually lead to a U.S. backed political settlement between the parties.

Mr. Bush spoke at a school in the state of Virginia, just hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and seven passengers on a commuter bus in northern Israel. Four Israeli soldiers were among the dead in the attack, which also wounded nearly 30 people, most of them Israeli Arabs.

The president says Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must do a better job to stop the violence. "We expect there to be 100 percent effort by Chairman Arafat," said President Bush. "We expect him to be reining-in those people with whom he has got influence. Clearly he is not going to have influence with every single suicide bomber. I understand that. But we expect him to be diligent and firm and consistent in his efforts to rein-in those who would like to disrupt any progress toward peace and rein-in those who would harm our friends the Israelis."

Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority condemned Wednesday's bombing. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the attacks shows that Mr. Arafat has not given up what the Israeli leader calls a policy of terror.

Vice President Dick Cheney returns from a ten-day trip to the Middle East Wednesday, which included talks in Israel and many Arab countries. He will brief the president at breakfast Thursday morning before Mr. Bush leaves for a U.N. development conference in Mexico.