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Bush Speech  Eagerly Awaited in Middle East - 2002-06-23

Parties in the Middle East say an anticipated speech by President Bush in which he is expected to lay out steps leading to the creation of a Palestinian state could facilitate the peace process. Their comments came in interviews Sunday on U.S. television talk shows.

Renewed violence in Israel last week postponed President Bush's plan to announce his peace proposals.

Mr. Bush said he would wait to make his announcement until the time is right.

There has been much speculation that the U.S. peace plan might contain a proposal for a provisional Palestinian state.

Appearing on the CBS television program Face the Nation, Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath said a provisional state would be unacceptable. "It's either a state or it's not a state," he said. "You cannot be provisionally pregnant, and I think it's the same thing. "

Mr. Shaath says U.S. involvement is essential for ending the conflict.

On CNN'S Late Edition, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he was looking forward to the president's speech. "I am convinced there is a need for a political horizon, not just military means," said Shimon Peres. "I think we have to fight terrorism and with all the means we can, on one hand, and then open a door for a different future."

In response to last week's suicide bombings that killed more than two dozen Israelis, the Israeli army has moved into at least five Palestinian-ruled towns in the West Bank. Israeli government officials said Sunday the military operations are limited and designed to protect citizens from further attacks.

Mr. Peres says continuing a dialogue between the two sides is key. "We cannot stop talking as we continue to fight terror," he said.

Saudi foreign policy advisor Adel Al Jubeir, in an interview on ABC's This Week, said the parties to the Middle East peace process should not focus on any one aspect of Mr. Bush's speech. "The key element of the speech, or the reason behind it, is to lay out a vision for what a final settlement looks like, in other words, what happens at the end of the road," he said.

That, says Mr. Jubeir, should include a fully autonomous Palestinian state.