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Bush 'Very Optimistic' About Chances for Mideast Peace - 2003-05-08

President Bush says he is very optimistic about the chances for peace in the Middle East. He spoke as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to leave for talks in the region on a new U.S. backed peace plan.

The Secretary of State will be meeting with the various parties to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, seeking to get their ideas on the so-called "road map" and get the peace process moving again.

The president says he is confident there will be progress.

"I am very optimistic," the president said. " That is why I am sending Secretary Powell there." Mr. Bush spoke at the end of a meeting at the White House with the Emir of Qatar. He made clear his optimism is based on the remarks of the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

"And the reason why we will make progress is the Palestinian Authority now has a leader in the prime minister who has renounced violence," he said.

The road map contains a series of steps designed to lead to the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel by 2005.