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Bush Tells Mubarak 'Roadmap' for Mideast Peace Not Complete - 2002-12-19

President Bush told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Thursday that an international peace plan for the Middle East is not yet ready. The president told the Egyptian leader that he remains committed to an independent Palestinian state.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush is committed to his so-called "roadmap" for Middle East peace which envisions a provisional Palestinian state next year and a permanent one by 2005.

That plan is being drafted by the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union, a group that has come to be known as the "quartet."

While Mr. Fleischer says their work on that "roadmap" is not yet complete, President Bush Thursday told the Egyptian leader that Washington has many ideas "about how to keep progress moving forward.

"President Bush said that although consultations on the road map are not yet complete, we are committed to moving forward at the appropriate time on the road map to help the parties find a path to peace in the Middle East," said Mr. Fleischer.

The president is expected to join a Washington meeting of the "quartet" Friday along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

European and Arab allies have been pressing the White House to move ahead with its Middle East peace plan, but continuing Israeli-Palestinian violence has slowed progress.

There is also uncertainty over Israeli elections scheduled for January 28. Mr. Fleischer would not say whether the quartet's roadmap is being delayed until after that vote, but parts of the plan have become election issues.

As outlined, the plan calls for changes in the Palestinian leadership and demands that Israel put a complete halt to building in the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

The opposition Labor party Thursday called for the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and the reduction of settlements in the divided West Bank town of Hebron.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Palestinian attacks must stop before peace talks resume.