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Bush-Sharon Meeting Set for Monday - 2002-06-09


After weekend talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, President Bush is preparing for discussions Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It will be the sixth Bush-Sharon meeting at the White House.

President Bush says he wants to listen closely to all sides before putting forward any new proposals for the Middle East.

His discussions at his Camp David retreat Friday and Saturday with President Mubarak yielded no visible forward movement. Mr. Bush resisted calls from the Egyptian leader to set a timetable for political talks leading to a Palestinian state, though he said he would like to see them begin as soon as possible.

After the session at Camp David, President Mubarak sat down for an interview with America's Fox television network. He told the Fox News Sunday program that the United States must play a leading role in the peace process. "The United States is the key for the peace process," he said. "Such two states - the Israelis and the Palestinians - if they are left alone to solve the problem, they will reach nowhere."

The Egyptian president said the Arab world stands ready to help. He said a ministerial-level Mideast conference could be useful, but said it is far too early to plan a summit. And he reaffirmed his belief that Yasser Arafat must be given a chance to prove he can lead the Palestinian people. "If he is given the authority and given the tools, I think he would work very well," said Mr. Mubarak. "If not, the people who broadly elected him will not accept him after all."

President Mubarak was then asked what advice he has for President Bush on the eve of talks with Ariel Sharon. "I think he should tell Ariel Sharon that he should work for peace and that destruction and using force and the killing and retaliation every now and then will never bring peace," he said. "And I think he should work on confidence building measures."

The Israeli prime minister offered his own views on the peace process in an opinion piece that appeared in Sunday's New York Times. He said the violence must stop before serious negotiations can begin. Mr. Sharon also stressed his country has made painful concessions in the past and is willing to do so again, but only if it has a "reliable partner" for peace.

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