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    Bush to Urge US Mideast Allies to Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

    President Bush travels to the Middle East in the coming week in hopes of urging U.S. allies in the region to support Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

    The president's first stop is Israel where he says he will encourage Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to move forward with peace talks they began in November in the United States.

    "This is difficult work. It will require tough decisions on complex questions. But I am optimistic about the prospects. And I will make clear that America is deeply committed to helping both parties realize the historic vision we share: two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," said Mr. Bush.

    After Israel, the president visits Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. In his weekly radio address, he says he will urge regional leaders to support Israeli-Palestinian talks and will consult with them on the war against extremists.

    The president says America will stay engaged in the region because societies growing in tolerance and hope are less likely to become sources of radicalism and violence.

    "We will support democrats and reformers from Beirut and Baghdad to Damascus and Tehran," said Mr. Bush. "We will stand with all those working to build a future of liberty and justice and peace."

    Analysts and activists in some Middle Eastern countries allied with the United States say 2007 was marked by governments backtracking from steps toward democracy.

    During his trip, President Bush will meet with U.S. officials from Iraq for an update on the fighting there.

    Public opinion polls say a majority of Americans believe the president's decision to invade Iraq was a mistake. And the deployment of more than 100,000 U.S. troops there is a major issue in this year's presidential campaign.

    In the Democratic radio address, party chairman Howard Dean urged American voters to put an end to seven years of Republican rule.

    "The Republican candidates stand for the past. They support the president's war in Iraq, the president's veto of children's health care, and they support an endless charge-card mentality, which our children and grandchildren will pay the bill for. The Democrats stand for the future of our country, and the message this November will be clear. If you want to get out of Iraq and refocus America's priority to really fight terrorism, vote for a Democrat for president," said Dean.

    In this week's first presidential caucus, more than twice as many Democrats turned out as Republicans. Dean says that shows Americans do not want another Bush term. That cannot happen anyway as the constitution prevents the president from seeking a third term.

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