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Bush Seeks Help From Arab Countries in Mideast Crisis - 2002-04-04

President Bush says Israel's Arab neighbors must contribute to peace in the Middle East. The president is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region next week to meet with Arab and Israeli leaders in hopes of reaching a ceasefire.

While calling on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian-ruled areas, President Bush says Arab leaders must come forward to help seize the moment and prevent the current conflict from growing wider. "As Israel steps back, responsible Palestinian leaders and Israel's Arab neighbors must step forward and show the world that they are truly on the side of peace," he said. "The choice and the burden will be theirs."

President Bush says this could be a hopeful moment in the Middle East with a peace plan from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah trading Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist in exchange for Israel withdrawing from land it occupied during the 1967 war. "The recent Arab League support of Crown Prince Abdullah's initiative for peace is promising," he said. "It is hopeful because it acknowledges Israel's right to exist. And it raises the hope of sustained, constructive Arab involvement in the search for peace."

President Bush says Secretary Powell is pushing for peace at a time when the situation is deteriorating dramatically. He says Arab leaders must be clear in renouncing terrorism and helping Palestinians find the peace and security they need to make their own state work.

"It is not enough for Arab nations to defend the Palestinian cause," he said. "They must truly help the Palestinian people by seeking peace and fighting terror and promoting development."

Mr. Bush says Iraqi payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers make Iraqi leader Sadaam Hussein guilty of what the president calls "soliciting murder of the worst kind." He also warned Iran to stop shipping weapons to the region.

"The storms of violence cannot go on. Enough is enough. And to those who would try to use the current crisis as an opportunity to widen the conflict, stay out. Iran's arms shipments and support for terror fuel the fire of conflict in the Middle East, and it must stop," he said.

President Bush says Syria must choose sides in the war against terrorism. While Syria has spoken-out against al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush says it is time Damascus acts against Hamas and Hezbollah. Those groups are responsible for many attacks against Israelis.

Secretary Powell's mission will be as much about Israeli/Palestinian relations as it is about solidifying the support of Arab allies. A senior administration official says Secretary Powell Thursday spoke by telephone with Jordan's King Abdullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are all expected to be on the Secretary's travel schedule next week.