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Bush Satisfied with Israel Troop Withdrawal - 2002-04-18

President Bush indicates he is satisfied with the pace of Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian areas in the West Bank. At the same time he is continuing to call on Yasser Arafat to match his condemnation of terrorism with action. The president spoke to reporters during a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, who just returned from the Middle East.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave President Bush a timetable for Israeli withdrawals from West Bank cities. Mr. Bush says that timetable is being met.

"History will show that they have responded," he said. "And as the prime minister told me, gave me a timetable and he has met the timetable."

The president says he understands why Israel is keeping troops in the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, saying there are situations in those cities that must be resolved.

In Ramallah, the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israel is looking for suspects in the murder of a cabinet minister. In Bethlehem, about 200 Palestinian gunmen remain inside the Church of the Nativity in a standoff with Israeli forces.

But Mr. Bush makes clear Israel is not the only party to the dispute with responsibilities that must be met. He says he is still waiting for action from Yasser Arafat.

"Mr. Arafat did condemn terror and we will hold him to account," he said.

The president spoke to reporters before a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He said Secretary Powell made progress in his just-ended mission to the region, even though he failed to achieve a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The situation prior to the secretary's arrival was at a boiling point," President Bush said. "Thanks to his hard work, he has laid out not only a vision of hope, which is important, but has convinced others that these terrorist acts will forever and constantly undermine the capacity for peace." The president acknowledged that one trip by the Secretary of State would not be enough to stop the violence. But he said Mr. Powell laid out a framework for peace. He did not mention further diplomatic efforts, but the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, is expected to go to the region next week.