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Bush Urges Arafat to Match Words with Action - 2002-05-09

President Bush is urging Yasser Arafat to match his words with action, while reminding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to remember the long-term consequences when deciding on a response to the latest suicide bombing.

The president spoke at the start of a meeting at the White House with Jordan's King Abdullah. President Bush met with the King at a moment of heightened tension in the region, as Israel debated its response to Tuesday's suicide bombing south of Tel Aviv.

The meeting was a highly visible sign that the search for peace continues, despite the violence. It was also a reminder of the difficult road ahead.

The president, who has made no secret of his mistrust of Yasser Arafat, said he was pleased with the words uttered by the Palestinian leader after the bombing. Mr. Arafat, speaking in Arabic, denounced terrorism and ordered his forces to stop acts of terror against Israelis.

"I thought that was an incredibly positive sign," Mr. Bush said. "As you know, I am one who he has disappointed in the past. And, therefore, I hope that his actions now match his words."

Speaking to reporters at the start of his talks with King Abdullah, the president said it is time for all parties to seize the moment in the search for peace. He was then asked if he expects Israel to show restraint in the face of terror. "Israel is a sovereign nation," Mr. Bush said. "But whatever response Israel decides to take my hope is, of course, that the prime minister keeps his vision of peace in mind."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was at the White House with President Bush when word reached Washington of the suicide bombing in the town of Rishon Letzion. Details became clear as their meeting drew to a close.

During that session, they did little if anything to resolve differences over issues such as Israel's settlements policy and Yasser Arafat's role in the peace process. But they did agree on the need to push the Palestinian Authority to implement reforms.

The president carried on that theme as he sat down with the Jordanian leader. He said, "I think us - all of us involved - must work hard to put the structures in place for a Palestinian Authority that respects the rule of law, that has its own constitution, that is able to fight corruption, that is able to spend money properly when it gets it from foreign sources so that there is hope.

Mr. Bush referred to King Abdullah as a man who cares deeply about peace, and about the welfare of all the people of the region.

The Jordanian monarch said he wants to focus on finding some steps that can move the process forward. King Abdullah said, "We are actually here at the moment to see if we can identify some logical steps over the next few weeks, to articulate a vision that brings the Israelis and Palestinians out of the impasse we are facing at the moment. And we'll discuss the views this evening and see if maybe we can find a roadmap to have America's support to bring Palestinians and Israelis the peace that they deserve."

Earlier, King Abdullah said the latest suicide bombing in Israel would not deter diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the region. "If we let the suicide bombers win the day," he said, "there is no hope for any of us."