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Bush Discusses Mideast Situation With Sharon - 2002-06-20


President Bush has assured Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that he is determined to find a way to protect Israel's security, while bringing hope to the Palestinian people. They spoke by telephone Thursday, a call that focused on this week's suicide bombings in Jerusalem.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush used the opportunity to offer his condolences to Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli people.

"The president expressed his sympathy for the families of those who have been victimized in the recent suicide attacks," he said. "The president also expressed his determination to pursue peace and to provide for security for Israel and hope for the Palestinian people as a result of his efforts."

Mr. Fleischer says they discussed the peace process in general terms. When asked if the president briefed the Israeli leader on his much-anticipated speech on the Middle East, the White House spokesman said only that it was not a "tactical conversation."

He then turned aside a question about whether President Bush asked the Israelis to slow down their military push in the West Bank. He said the president called for action from the Palestinians.

"The president said it is very important for the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate in action that they will help crack down on the violence and stop the violence and fight the violence, so that all parties in the region can live in peace and security," he said.

Speaking just hours after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for an end to attacks on Israel, Mr. Fleischer stressed at this point, President Bush believes words are not enough.

"The president is a bottom-line leader. He is focused on results. He is looking for results," he said.

The latest round of violence in the region has delayed the president's plan to put forward his own ideas for moving the peace process forward. There is speculation Mr. Bush would like to make the speech before he leaves Washington next Tuesday for the annual Group of Eight summit. But Mr. Fleischer told reporters the timing is not pegged to the trip.

"The president does not look at the trip to Canada as an event that would dictate the timing of when to give the speech. The president will decide when to give the speech based on his sense of when the speech would do the most good to help the parties in the region," he said.

In that speech, Mr. Bush is expected to lay out steps leading to the creation of a Palestinian state. White House officials emphasize the goal is the same one the president outlined to Prime Minister Sharon: To provide for Israeli security, while giving the Palestinians hope for the future.

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