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Bush, Blair Discuss 'Road Map' for Peace in Middle East - 2003-04-08

In addition to holding hours of talks on the situation in Iraq, U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair also used their meeting in Northern Ireland to discuss plans for peace in the Middle East.

The president and prime minister discussed their so-called "roadmap" for Middle East peace, which sets out a timetable for power-sharing between Israelis and Palestinians toward the eventual creation of a separate Palestinian state.

President Bush says the plan is based on protecting the rights of both communities to live without the fear of Palestinian suicide bombings or Israeli reprisals into occupied territories.

"Our governments are working to help bring about a settlement in the Middle East that protects the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, that promotes the peace, that promotes security, that promotes human dignity," said Mr. Bush.

The focus of their meeting at a castle outside Belfast was the continuing war in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, a five-year-old power-sharing deal between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. But both men spoke of the need to end the violence in the Middle East, which Prime Minister Blair said can be achieved with separate Israeli and Palestinian states.

"I want to thank the president also for the impetus he has given to the two-state solution in the Middle East that he outlined last June, a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state; and for his decision that the road map be published, which, as you know, depends upon the foundation of Abu Mazen's cabinet," said Mr. Blair.

Mahmud Abbas, who also goes by the name of Abu Mazen, is the new Palestinian Prime Minister whose appointment President Bush calls an encouraging sign for Middle East peace. Israel has indicated it accepts the roadmap in principle, but says there are several security and power-sharing provisions that must be amended.