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Bush to Meet with  Lebanese PM - 2002-04-17


President George W. Bush meets Wednesday with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The men are expected to discuss a Saudi plan to end Middle East violence.

The meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri is a follow-up to last month's Arab summit in Beirut where Arab leaders endorsed a Saudi plan for Mideast peace.

That plan exchanges Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist for Israel's withdrawal to the borders it held before the 1967 war. The plan, put forward by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, has the backing of the both the European Community and the United States.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush and Prime Minister Hariri will discuss the Saudi plan and what can be done now to bring the sides closer together. He said, "Of course, the Arab Summit, which for the first time recognized a proposed recognition of Israel's right to exist in secure borders along with a pull-back to the '67 borders was a topic that came up in Beirut at the Arab Summit and so there will be a variety of ideas that I think we can talk through at the this meeting with the president."

Mr. Fleischer said the men will also discuss rocket attacks across the Lebanese-Israeli border where Palestinian militants continue to operate.

At issue is a piece of land known as Shebaa Farms which Lebanon claims as its own but Israel says belongs to Syria. Israeli troops continue to occupy that ground where they say they are defending against a Palestinian effort to expand the violence in the occupied territories by opening a second-front along the border with Lebanon.

President Bush meets with the Saudi crown prince at his Texas ranch next week to discuss the peace plan and what Mr. Fleischer calls "complications" in U.S.-Saudi relations.

While he called those ties "strong," the White House spokesman says as friends and as allies, the countries have differing views. Mr. Fleischer was responding to a question about Saudi officials praising Palestinian suicide bomb attacks against Israel.

Before his meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister Wednesday, President Bush will discuss Middle East violence and the war against terrorism in a speech at a private military college in the state of Virginia.

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