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Bush Condemns Latest Palestinian Attacks - 2002-07-18

President Bush has condemned the latest attacks on Israeli civilians, calling them despicable acts of terror. Mr. Bush will hold talks on the Middle East later today with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In a written statement, President Bush offers his condolences to the families of those killed in the double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, and an attack Tuesday in the West Bank.

Mr. Bush says peace cannot be built on a platform of violence. He says these attacks were not just directed against innocent Israelis, but were also attacks on efforts to restore hope to the Palestinian people.

The president's statement emphasizes there is agreement around the world on the need to support Palestinian reform, address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, and move the peace process forward.

But Mr. Bush does not mention the international split over the proper role for Yasser Arafat. At a news conference Wednesday, the president said he still believes the Palestinians need new leaders. Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Arafat has failed to deliver. I still feel that way. And I know the Palestinian people will be better served by new leadership.

The president said, however, that he doesn't want to get into a debate about personalities. He said what is at issue is not one person, but something much bigger. "We need to put institutions in place so that a peaceful Palestinian state can emerge," he continued. "And that ought to be the primary focus."

Mr. Bush said some progress was made Tuesday at a high-level meeting in New York on the Middle East. "My focus of my administration is to work with leaders from around the world, some of whom were in New York yesterday, to work to make sure there is a new constitution which divides power so that one person doesn't get to decide the fate of a group of people that have suffered mightily.

The New York meeting involved top representatives of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The discussions of the so-called "quartet" produced agreements on matters of political reform and humanitarian assistance. But there was no meeting of the minds on Yasser Arafat.

Later today, President Bush will get personally involved in this new round of Middle East diplomacy when he meets at the White House with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. On August 1, he will host talks with Jordan's King Abdullah.