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Bush Calls on Palestinians to Develop Democratic Institutions - 2003-09-23


U.S. President George W. Bush, in his U.N. General Assembly speech Tuesday, called on the Palestinians to follow the lead of Iraq in developing democratic institutions, while his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, urged a new international push to implement the "road map" to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. The president touched on the Middle East conflict only briefly in his address dominated by a defense of U.S. actions in Iraq. But in another implicit condemnation of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he said the Palestinians would be wise to follow the lead of Iraq in turning away from authoritarian rule and building democratic institutions.

"The advance of democratic institutions in Iraq is setting an example that others, including the Palestinian people, would be wise to follow," said Mr. Bush. "The Palestinian cause is betrayed by leaders who cling to power by feeding old hatreds and destroying the good work of others. The Palestinian people deserve their own state, and they will gain that state by embracing new leaders committed to reform, to fighting terror, and to building peace."

Mr. Bush said Arab nations must cut off funding and other support for Palestinian factions involved in terrorism. He also called on both Israel and the Palestinians to live up to commitments made at the Aqaba summit in June, in which they pledged to adhere to the Middle East peace "road map" and he said Israel must work to create the conditions that will allow a peaceful Palestinian state to emerge.

Progress in implementing the "road map" has all but ground to a halt in recent months amid anti-Israeli terror attacks and retaliation by Israel, and the sponsors of the peace plan - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - are to hold a ministerial-level meeting at the U.N. on Friday to discuss how to proceed.

In advance of the meeting, French President Jacques Chirac, in his General Assembly address, called on the international community to commit itself to the "road map" with renewed vigor. Heard through an interpreter, Mr. Chirac said the "road map" should have a monitoring mechanism to insure compliance.

"The international community must restore the dynamic for peace," said Mr. Chirac. "It must involve itself in the implementation of the road map.

"That should be the objective of the upcoming meeting of the Quartet to be held at the ministerial level," he continued. "France believes that the idea of a monitoring mechanism is a relevant as ever, and that the convening of the international conference is a goal to be attained as soon as possible."

Mr. Chirac said despite the current level of tensions, the two sides should not "succumb to the temptation" of trying to resolve the dispute by military force, or what he termed "futile radicalization."

Friday's meeting of the "road map" partners will be the first since June. Formally presented to the parties last January, the plan calls for reciprocal confidence-building measures by the two sides leading to a two-state solution of the conflict by 2005.

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