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King Abdullah and President Bush Meeting Today

U.S. President George W. Bush and King Abdullah of Jordan meet today in Washington to discuss a number of key Middle East issues. VOA's Jim Bertel reports those include the king's efforts to promote moderate Islam and the Middle East “road map” for peace.

King Abdullah of Jordan has been one of the Bush administration's strongest allies in the Middle East, supporting the president's push for democracy in the Arab world. He has also been an important player in the Middle East peace process. And his country is a platform for U.S. covert and military activities in Iraq.

Ambassador Edward Walker, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in both the Bush and Clinton administrations and now the President of the Middle East Institute, was recently briefed by the Jordanians on the White House meeting and says the Israeli-Palestinian peace process tops the king's agenda.

"They're very, very concerned about the future of the Palestinians and particularly about the road map and whether or not the United States is going to push forward on this road map."

In a meeting Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, King Abdullah reportedly pushed Israel to follow its withdrawal from Gaza and four small West Bank settlements with further withdrawals from the West Bank.

Ambassador Walker says President Bush does not agree with the king and some European leaders, believing the process needs to move forward slowly because of the political fall out from the Gaza withdrawal.

"That if you push too fast you get something you don't want in Israel and Israel has got to have some time to accommodate revolutionary change in their politics,” said the ambassador. “And they haven't had the time to do that and he wants to give Ariel Sharon the breathing space to get himself reestablished politically.”

Since arriving in the United States last week, King Abdullah has spoken several times about his initiative to promote the true Islam, a religion based on compassion and respect for others. Through what is knows as the "Amman Message", the king and other Arab leaders are trying to take back Islam from radical extremists like Osama bin Laden.

"Religion has been blamed for a lot of violence that we've seen around the world and historically it's not religion that is at fault, it is humanity."

The king will brief President Bush on this effort during their Oval office meeting. The two leaders are also expected to discuss Iraq and Mr. Bush's push for democracy in the Middle East.