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Bush Hopeful 'Roadmap,' New Palestinian PM Can Bring Peace to Middle East - 2003-05-01

President Bush says there is a new opportunity for peace in the Middle East, and all parties must renounce violence. He spoke hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli government were formally presented with a detailed peace plan devised by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N.

President Bush says he is optimistic the so-called "road map" will bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

"We have a good opportunity to advance the peace process. And I will seize the opportunity," he stressed.

The president says he is only too aware that past peace efforts have ended in failure. And he leaves no doubt he believes the difference this time is Mahmoud Abbas.

"He understands that in order for Palestinian lives to improve, terror must be battled," he said. "And listen, he is a man I can work with. And I look forward to working with him, and will work with him."

Mr. Bush was asked about the prospects for peace during a brief session with reporters. The president acknowledged a long process lies ahead, and noted that all sides have responsibilities.

He said they must create conditions for peace, starting with an end to terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians - part of an endless cycle of violence that has engulfed the region for years.

"In order for there to be a peace in the Middle East it is important for all parties to assume the necessary responsibilities to achieve the conditions so that peace can happen," he said. "That starts with fighting off terror."

He said surrounding Arab nations must also play a role by cutting off funding for terrorists. And he emphasized that all sides will have to make concessions.

"Israel is going to have to make some sacrifices in order to move the peace process forward. But no sacrifice should be made that will allow and encourage terror to continue and reign," he said.

The road-map calls for security guarantees for Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.

Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to meet with all the parties in the region over the next few weeks to discuss the peace plan. And the White House says President Bush would like to invite Mahmoud Abbas to Washington. But spokesman Ari Fleischer makes clear there will be no invitation for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"Yasser Arafat was not a party to peace. Yasser Arafat was a part of the problem," he said.

Mr. Fleischer told reporters Yasser Arafat had a chance to help bring peace to the region, and threw it away.