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Bush to Announce New Middle East Peace Plan - 2003-03-14

President Bush says he will announce a plan for Middle East peace as soon as Palestinians confirm the appointment of a new prime minister who holds substantial authority.

President Bush says the world has reached a "hopeful moment for progress" toward peace in the Middle East with the pending appointment of the Palestinian Authority's first prime minister.

Once that positioned is filled, Mr. Bush says he will present a long-awaited peace plan drawn up by the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations.

"The time has come to move beyond entrenched positions and to take concrete actions to achieve peace," he said.

This so-called "roadmap" for the Middle East is a sequence of reforms and security agreements moving toward the creation of a separate Palestinian state by 2005 which includes land now held by Israel.

Mr. Bush says the creation of a new Palestinian Prime Minister and the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offers a "chance to move forward" toward resuming talks on peace.

"Once this roadmap is delivered, we will expect and welcome contributions from Israel and the Palestinians to this document that will advance true peace," the president said. " We will urge them to discuss the roadmap with one another."

The Palestinian parliament this week created the post of prime minister but did not give it control of security issues or negotiating with Israel. Those rights remain with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

The White House opposes that division of power. Mr. Bush Friday said the new prime minister must be empowered with "full authority."

European allies have criticized the president for delaying publication of this "roadmap" toward peace. When asked if the timing had anything to do with the president's push to get U.N. votes for a resolution against Iraq, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said things are "starting to move" in the Middle East and the president wanted to reflect that.

"There can be no peace for either side in the Middle East unless there is freedom for both," the spokesman said. " Reaching that destination will not be easy, but we can see the way forward. And now the parties must take that way, step by step. And America will be the active partner of every party that seeks true peace."

As progress is made toward peace, Mr. Bush says Israel must stop settlement activity in occupied territories and take "concrete steps" to support the emergence of a Palestinian state. He says that state must abandon the use of terror and, along with Arab neighbors, state clearly their commitment to live in peace with Israel.