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Bush Delays Release of Mideast Plan Following Attacks - 2002-06-19

U.S. President George W. Bush intends to delay presentation of a Middle East Peace plan because of the latest suicide bombings in Jerusalem. The plan is expected to set a timetable for an interim Palestinian state.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush condemns the latest attack. As for the new Israeli policy of re-occupying Palestinian areas until the violence stops, Mr. Fleischer says the president hopes Israeli leaders keep in mind the need to pursue dialogue while tightening security.

"The president understands Israel has a right to defend herself," said Mr. Fleischer. "As Israel defends herself, the president asks that Israel continue to remember the consequences of any actions so that the path to peace, the political path, can also be pursued."

Mr. Fleischer says the second bombing in less than 36 hours has delayed announcement of the president's plan for Mideast peace. "I think in the immediate aftermath of these attacks, it is obvious that the immediate aftermath is not the right time," he said plainly, "The president knows what he wants to say and the president will share it when the president believes the time is right to share it so it can do the most good."

That plan is expected to lay out a timetable for a provisional Palestinian state on the condition that Palestinian leaders stop the violence and improve government accountability.

Mr. Fleischer said the president wants to make that announcement at what he calls an "appropriate time" to refocus leaders on the need to make Israel more secure, while giving hope to the Palestinian people. "It is hard to get people to focus on peace today when they are still suffering from the consequences of terrorism as we speak," he said.

An armed group linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement quoted by Lebanese television. Mr. Fleischer says the burden falls on the Palestinian leader and the Palestinian Authority to do more to stop the violence.

"Whatever the source of the attacks, the president thinks that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority can do more to stop them, and they need to do more," Mr. Fleisher said, "They should do more and they should want to do more. If terrorism is to be condemned, not only in word but in deed, the Palestinian Authority needs to take additional action, in the president's opinion, to help Israel to know that Israel's security will be maintained."

The president's much-anticipated peace plan is based on conversations he has had during the past few months, including talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah, and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal. Mr. Bush met last week with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.