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Bush Asks Egyptian President to Aid Palestinian Leaders in Ending Violence - 2003-06-18

President Bush is asking Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to help Palestinian leaders end violence that is threatening a Middle East peace plan.

President Bush says the biggest challenge to peace is continuing attacks by Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas.

CIA officials are working with the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to reorganize his security forces to confront that threat. Mr. Bush Wednesday telephoned the Egyptian leader to ask for his help in stopping the violence.

"I called President Mubarak today to ask him to work with the Palestinian Authority to consolidate their security forces under Prime Minister Abbas so that the prime minister can achieve the goals that he has set out which is for the dismantlement of terror and what hopefully will be a peaceful Palestinian state," Mr. Bush said.

President Mubarak earlier this month organized a meeting of Arab leaders to back the so-called road map for peace which lays out a timeline for power sharing toward the creation of a separate Palestinian state by 2005.

Following those talks in Egypt, President Bush met personally with Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to push the peace plan. But any momentum from that meeting in Jordan was quickly overtaken by a new round of violence including an Israeli attempt to assassinate a top Hamas official as well as a Hamas suicide bomber blowing up an Israeli commuter bus.

Prime Minister Sharon says there is no chance for real progress on the peace plan until the new Palestinian prime minister shows he is subduing Hamas, which has sparked much of the more than 30 months of violence in this latest uprising.

Mr. Abbas says he is working to negotiate a ceasefire with the militant group and met again Wednesday with Hamas leaders.

The Bush administration is working hard to keep the peace plan together with Secretary of State Colin Powell due to visit the area Friday for talks with both sides.