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White House Urges Calm in Middle East

The Bush administration is urging calm in the Middle East, and calling for Israelis and Palestinians to take immediate steps to end the violence.

As tensions continue to rise in the Middle East, the White House is issuing appeals to Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says they need to restore calm. He told reporters covering the President's Texas vacation that all parties must realize that failure to break the cycle of violence will only lead to disaster.

Mr. McClellan also confirmed reports that President Bush has received a letter from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. But he refused to provide details of the message, and he would not say how, or even if, Mr. Bush might respond.

The State Department also declined to comment on the letter, or on prospects for a visit by Mr. Arafat to Washington. When asked about the situation in the region, Department Spokesman Richard Boucher chose his words carefully. "I think we have been quite clear that the violence, especially in the last few days, is deeply troubling, that we have looked to both sides to not go down the path of escalation and retaliation, that we have looked to both sides to make maximum efforts," he said.

Mr. Boucher said the United States has been actively pushing all parties to adhere to the guidelines for the peace process recommended by the Mitchell commission. He said the Bush administration is making every effort to reduce the violence, and begin the process outlined in the Mitchell report.