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Bush Speaks with Leaders on Need for Middle East Security - 2003-05-20


U.S. President George W. Bush speaks to new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen – for the first time, focusing on the need to fight terror and work toward peace in the Middle East. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described the telephone conversation as “friendly and hopeful.” Amy Katz has more.

The White House spokesman also says Mr. Abbas told the President he is committed to reform, to peace and to ending all acts of terror.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN
“The President stressed the need for all parties to take concrete steps and called for cooperative efforts between all Arab parties and Israel to create the conditions for peace and security in the Middle East.”

Mr. Fleischer said President Bush had also spoken by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was to have been at the White House Tuesday. Mr. Sharon cancelled that visit - in the wake of a rash of suicide bombings against Israelis. Mr. Fleischer said President Bush offered his condolences and stressed the need to continue to pursue peace.

NATURAL SOUND – MAHMOUD ABBAS SPEAKING ON AL ARABIYA TELEVISION Earlier, in an interview on Al Arabiya Television, an Arabic T-V network, Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas called for Palestinians to unite to push for peace. He condemned suicide bombings, saying they “prolong and hinder” the peace process.

The comments follow five suicide bombings in Israel in just two days, threatening the internationally-backed “road map” peace plan for the region. At least 12 Israelis were killed and more than 30 others were wounded in those attacks, which came only hours after Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met for the first time in Jerusalem late Saturday. That meeting ended without any agreement on how to implement that peace plan.

Meanwhile, another meeting aimed at finding a way to get the road map implemented, wrapped up in Tokyo Tuesday. Former Israeli Justice Minister, Yossi Beilin and Palestinian Current Affairs Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo along with other officials from each side, took part in the two-day conference, which was hosted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry. It was aimed at building confidence between the Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides stressed the “road map” for peace needs to be implemented to put an end to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.

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