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Middle East To Dominate Bush-Blair Summit - 2002-04-06

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are holding weekend talks at the president's Texas ranch.

The bloodshed in the Middle East is dominating the news, and it is likely to dominate this summit.

When it was scheduled weeks ago, there were strong indications President Bush and Prime Minister Blair would focus on possible action against Iraq as part of the war on terrorism. But in the days that led up to the weekend summit, their priorities shifted.

On the eve of his talks with Mr. Blair, President Bush announced plans to send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region. He spoke of the deaths of too many young men and women, saying "the future itself is dying."

Prime Minister Blair echoed that sentiment during his flight from London to central Texas. He conceded there was little optimism at the moment, but added neither the Palestinians or the Israelis want the current situation to continue.

President Bush reaffirmed his resolve to seek a solution during an interview that aired Friday on British television. He said his main worry is that Yasser Arafat will not be able to perform as a leader.

The president said Mr. Arafat has not earned his trust. And he expressed the belief that that others could come to the fore and provide the leadership needed to get a peace deal.

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are expected to have more to say about the Middle East when they break from their talks for a press conference Saturday at a school near the Bush ranch.

It's the same spot where the President and Russian President Vladimir Putin took questions last November from a group of students. Mr. Putin was the first foreign leader to spend time in the seclusion of President's Bush's beloved "Prairie Chapel Ranch." Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah will be the next foreign dignitary to visit the Bush family home. He is expected to come to Texas later this month.