Page last updated at 20:07 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 21:07 UK

Bush and Abbas in push for peace

Mahmoud Abbas and George Bush at the White House, 24 April 2008
Mr Bush has another visit to the Middle East planned

US President George W Bush has met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as he tries to boost efforts for peace in the Middle East.

Mr Abbas is seeking renewed US support in faltering peace talks and more international pressure on Israel.

After meeting Mr Abbas, Mr Bush said he remained confident about achieving the "definition" of a Palestinian state by the end of the year.

The Palestinian leader said the road to peace was "paved with obstacles".

Mr Bush wants to achieve a peace settlement before he leaves office in January, a goal that was set a conference in Annapolis five months ago.

Progress has been slow and the BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says it is looking increasingly difficult for the American president to deliver on his promise.

'Swiss cheese'

On Thursday Mr Bush acknowledged that any deal would require "hard work", but said he was confident that "we can achieve the definition of a state".

Mr Bush said he was committed to "a viable state, a state that doesn't look like Swiss cheese, a state that provides hope".

During his trip to Washington Mr Abbas has appealed for the Israelis to stop building settlements on disputed land so that peace talks can proceed.

Ahead of his meeting with Mr Bush he called the settlements the main obstacle to peace, saying that that time was running out if the goals set at Annapolis were to be met.

"I cannot say that the road to peace is paved with flowers," he said after the meeting.

"It is paved with obstacles. But together, we will work very hard in order to eliminate those obstacles and achieve peace."

The meeting came ahead of President Bush's planned trip to Israel and several Arab countries next month.

Mr Abbas has already held talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US lawmakers.

The US has been trying to shore up support for Mr Abbas after the Palestinian Authority that he heads lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas.

At the White House on Wednesday, King Abdullah of Jordan pressed for a timetable for negotiations towards Palestinian statehood, something the US has been reluctant to give.

Meanwhile in Cairo, Hamas leaders gave Egyptian negotiators proposals for a truce in the Gaza Strip that could later be extended to the West Bank.

Hamas had previously said a truce for both areas had to begin at the same time.

Egypt is expected to relay the proposals to Israel in coming days.

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