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Bush to Discuss Mideast with Arab Foreign Ministers - 2002-07-17


U.S. Middle East diplomacy continues despite the latest suicide bomb attack in Israel. Secretary of State Colin Powell has luncheon talks Thursday with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and they all go later in the day to the White House to meet President Bush.

The talks here are a follow-up to discussions in New York Tuesday of the diplomatic "quartet" on the Middle East, the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, and are expected to center on ways of reforming the Palestinian security apparatus. The Bush administration is giving top priority to the security reforms, and seeking help in implementing them from its moderate Arab allies.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says terrorism must no longer be allowed to derail political progress toward Palestinian statehood.

"Every time we thought we were close to getting something started on the political side, there was another round of major violence that meant we couldn't get started," he said. "And so the secretary has recognized all long that security is necessary, if we're going to move down the political track."

The United States is drafting a plan for reorganizing and training Palestinian security forces that could involve the participation of Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi military personnel.

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