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Mideast Peace Dominates Bush-Abdullah Meeting - 2002-08-01

President Bush says he is furious about the bombing Wednesday at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but remains committed to the Mideast peace process. He spoke at the start of talks with Jordan's King Abdullah.

The latest act of violence in the Middle East brought the bloodshed home to America. Five Americans were among the seven victims of the university bombing.

President Bush said he understands the anger felt by Israelis. "I am just as angry as Israel is right now. I am furious that innocent life has been lost," the president said.

As he began his meeting with King Abdullah, Mr. Bush was asked by reporters if America will avenge the deaths. He said the United States is already waging war on terrorism.

"We are responding all across the globe to murderers of Americans. We responded in Afghanistan to murderers. We responded in the Philippines. We are responding by working with our Arab friends, and Israel of course, to track these people down," Mr. Bush said.

The president went on to stress that he remains committed to the cause of peace in the Middle East, saying he looked forward to continued discussions with King Abdullah.

Prior to the talks, the Jordanian leader said he had tough issues to raise with the president. He said it is "ludicrous" for the United States to even contemplate military action against Iraq while the Israeli-Palestinian dispute drags on.

But when he spoke in front of reporters at the White House, his tone was diplomatic. King Abdullah said the president understands the suffering Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs are going through in the Middle East.

"What has been so reassuring to me," said King Abdullah, "is the president has the commitment to work very hard with his government to give the hope for Arabs and Israelis to be able to move to the future."

The Jordanian leader made no direct mention of Iraq. But President Bush did, saying he still believes in the need for a regime change in Baghdad. "The policy of our government, this administration, is regime change for a reason. Saddam Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors, who develops weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Immediately after the meeting with King Abdullah, President Bush conferred with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Mr. Peres said there was a meeting of the minds. "Basically, we see eye-to-eye on all the issues, namely to get rid of terror at large and suicide bombers particularly," he said.

Mr. Peres was originally scheduled to meet with White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, but the president joined the session for about a half-hour. The Israeli foreign minister is also meeting with top state department officials during his stay in Washington.