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President Bush Launches New Partnership to Help Palestinian Youth


The Bush administration has launched a new partnership between the U.S. government and the private sector to help provide economic opportunities for Palestinian young people. The new enterprise is designed to build on the success of last week's Annapolis conference, where Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to renew negotiations with the goal of finalizing a peace treaty by the end of next year. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

President Bush met at the White House with those involved in the partnership, saying the program is designed to help the Palestinians develop a civil society that will be a key part in a final peace agreement with Israel.

The president says an important component will focus on young people in the West Bank.

"We are going to help the Palestinians develop youth centers, places where young Palestinians can come and learn new technical skills or language skills or have mentoring programs," he said. "This is all aimed at saying there is a hopeful future, a future where you do not have to adhere to violence, a future where radicalism is not in your sights, a future where peace is possible."

Speaking earlier in Washington to those involved in the partnership, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said focusing this project on programs that will reach Palestinians directly and prepare them for responsibilities of citizenship and leadership can have an enormous positive impact.

"I want to demonstrate that America, not just the government, but our entire nation and our citizenry, will welcome the Palestinian people into the community of nations and will help them to develop a stake in the global economy," she said.

The public-private partnership comes after Palestinian and Israeli leaders agreed to make a new bid for a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of 2008.

The aim is to encourage private sector support for the Palestinians and is considered an important component in making progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Secretary Rice says mobilizing investment and generating jobs will be very important to the success of the initiative.

"Can you imagine a sign that says we need 500 workers, we need 1,000 workers? If you have that kind of development early on, it is going to be great when the Palestinian economy is self-sustaining, but right now it needs jobs and it needs the very clear indication that jobs are coming," she said.

Additional efforts to help the Palestinians will continue when France hosts a donors' conference later this month.

President Bush has asked the U.S. Congress to approve an increase of more than $400 million in additional aid to the Palestinian people.