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US-Arab Summit Ends with Pledge to Keep Peace Process Alive - 2003-06-03

U.S. President George W. Bush and Arab leaders have ended their talks in Egypt with a vow to defeat terror and move the peace process forward. Their summit in Sharm el-Sheikh produced a key endorsement for the new U.S.-backed mideast peace plan.

President Bush came here looking for Arab support for the so-called "road map."

The leaders of Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia did not disappoint. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the words the White House was waiting to hear: "We welcome the road map."

The summit host said all the participants reject terror and violence, and will help move the peace process along.

"We will continue to fight the scourge of terrorism against humanity and reject the culture of extremism and violence in any form or shape," said the Egyptian leader.

These were assurances the president wanted before heading off to Jordan and a planned three-way summit Wednesday with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

Standing side-by-side with President Mubarak after the Sharm el-Sheikh talks, Mr. Bush spoke of a moment of promise. "We see the potential for unity against terror," he said. "We see the potential for the birth of a new Palestinian state. And we see the potential for broader peace among the peoples of this region."

Mr. Bush said that achieving these goals will require courage and moral vision from each party to the peace process. Once criticized for doing too little to help the push for peace, the president said he will stay engaged and work hard to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

"America is committed and I am committed to helping all the parties to reach the hard and heroic decisions that will lead to peace," President Bush said.

This is Mr. Bush's first trip to the Middle East since his inauguration in January 2001. And the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh marked his first face-to-face meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. The mere fact that he was invited to the meeting indicated his acceptance among prominent Arab leaders as the chief negotiator for his people, sitting in the seat at the bargaining table once reserved for Yasser Arafat.