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Bush Calls on Israel to Withdraw Troops - 2002-04-26

President Bush said Friday it is time for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian areas and that all parties to the conflict in the Middle East must do more to work toward peace.

Three weeks after he told Israel to leave Palestinian areas "without delay," President Bush again called on Israeli troops to withdraw. "Israelis understand my position. I have been very clear on that," the president said. "There has been some progress, but it is now time to quit it all together. It is time to end this. We will see what happens. I know they have heard us."

The president met Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah who told him U.S interests in the region will be in "grave danger" if he does not do more to press for an Israeli withdrawal.

Mr. Bush said he made it clear to the Crown Prince that Israel holds a special place in U.S. foreign policy. "Well, I told the Crown Prince that we have got a unique relationship with Israel. And that one thing that the world can count on is that we will not allow Israel to be crushed. And I think that's an import statement to make," Mr. Bush said.

The president wants to push ahead with the Saudi leader's peace plan which has Israel giving-up land it occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist.

Mr. Bush says he and the Crown Prince both share a common vision for Mideast peace, two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.

The president said he repeated his call on all parties in the region to "step up to their responsibilities" and end the violence. "We had a good discussion about the obligations of the Arab nations," said Mr. Bush. "The Crown Prince was clear in his denunciation of terror. Chairman Arafat has got obligations. And so do the Israelis."

Israel has continued to operate in Palestinian areas despite the president's call to withdraw. Israel says it is in a fight against terrorism and will not stop until the job is done.