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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 04:01 GMT
Analysis: Scant hope for US diplomacy
Cheney, Bush and Powell announcing new Middle East initiative
President Bush and his team are not assured any success
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By Jon Leyne
BBC State Department Correspondent

Despite his best attempts to stay out of the Middle East conflict, President Bush has finally been forced to act to try to calm the mounting violence.

His envoy General Anthony Zinni will travel to the region next week.

"We believe now is the time for General Zinni to move back into the region," Mr Bush on Thursday.

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Crown Prince may have triggered new US efforts
"There are no assurances. That is not going to prevent our government from trying reduce the cycle of violence."

It is not just the ever increasing violence that has forced the president's hand.

Washington was in danger of being left behind as two of its closest Arab allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, launched new peace initiatives.

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, leaves for a long planned trip to the region this weekend.

He faced a frosty reception from the Arab countries on his itinerary, if the United States continued sitting on its hands while Israel and the Palestinians battled it out.

US frustrated

So the message of this new initiative, above all, is that the Bush administration is still engaged.

There is no evidence the administration is taking its own advice and subjecting its own policy to a hard look.

In the circumstances, it is still the least President Bush could do, at the last possible moment.

General Zinni has already been to the region twice. Both trips seemed to produce just more violence.

This time the General may have a licence to put pressure on both the Palestinian and the Israeli leadership.

The Bush administration has sounded increasingly frustrated in the last couple of days with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

US envoy Anthony Zinni
Zinni's missions have not been marked by success
At a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Mr Sharon should take a hard look at his policies.

"If you declare war against the Palestinians, thinking you can solve the problems by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed, I don't think that leads us anywhere," Mr Powell said.

But despite this tweak on the tiller, there is no evidence that the members of the Bush administration are taking the same advice and subjecting their own Middle East policy to a hard look.

Whatever the President may be saying about the tragic human suffering, he has no intention of putting the sort of energy into solving this issue that his predecessor exercised, with such mixed results.

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