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Bush Confident Mideast Peace Process Can Go Forward - 2003-05-19

U.S. President George W. Bush says he is confident the Middle East peace process can go forward, despite a series of bombings in Israel. He spoke shortly after a bomb exploded in northern Israel, the fifth suicide bombing in Israel in two days.

President Bush says he remains committed to the new U.S.-backed Middle East peace plan. He says despite the bombings, he has no intention of putting the so-called "road map" on the shelf.

"The road map still stands. The vision of two states existing side by side in peace is a real vision, and one that I will work toward," he said.

Mr. Bush acknowledged it will not be easy. He said it will take a lot of work to bring the violence to an end, but stressed he is not giving up.

"We are still on the road to peace," he said. "It is just going to be a bumpy road. And I am not going to get off the road until we achieve the vision."

Speaking at a news conference with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, Mr. Bush again called on all those interested in peace to fight terror.

"People in the Palestinian Authority who care for peace must work with us to fight of terror. People in Israel who care for peace will work with us to fight terror," he said.

He also urged Arab and European nations to play a strong role, urging them to cut off funding and support for terrorist groups that seek to subvert the peace process.

He mentioned no names, and appeared careful not to level too much criticism on the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas. The Bush administration had linked the release of the road map to his confirmation by the Palestinian legislature. Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Abbas still has the president's support.

"In the president's judgment, there is no question the new Palestinian prime minister thinks differently about peace and about reform. He is a reformer, he is a man who wants to move in the direction of peace and work with Israel well," he said.

The White House spokesman drew a distinction between Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He said the terrorists are enemies of Mahmoud Abbas, while Yasser Arafat has done nothing to help the peace process.