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Bush, Blair Prepare for Middle East Talks


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived at the White House for talks with President Bush on reviving Middle East peace talks.

As the president's biggest ally in the war in Iraq, Mr. Blair is hoping to use that influence to convince President Bush to take a more active role in restarting Middle East peace talks following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Prime Minister Blair says Middle East peace must be the international community's highest priority.

Before Mr. Arafat's death, President Bush said there would be an opening for peace if Palestinians chose leaders who renounce violence and embrace efforts to build a democratic and free society.

If that happens, and the president says he believes it will, Mr. Bush says America will help build the institutions necessary so Palestinians can have their own state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

In a written statement following the Palestinian leader's death, President Bush said all the world must help in making progress toward peace during the period of transition that is ahead for the Palestinian people.

A White House statement says the United Kingdom stands as one of America's closest allies, and Tony Blair as one of America's greatest friends.

It says President Bush looks forward to discussing with Prime Minister Blair how to further strengthen U.S. cooperation with the United Kingdom and all of Europe to address together the many challenges of the 21st century.

After dinner Thursday evening, the leaders meet again on Friday before a joint news conference at the White House.