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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Bush 'committed to Palestinian state'
Bush and Mubarak
Behind the photo-opportunity, analysts say there is suspicion
US President George W Bush has assured a summit of Arab leaders that he is committed to Palestinian and Israeli states existing side-by-side, each enjoying "peace and security".

"The world needs to have a Palestinian state that is free, and at peace, and therefore my government will work with all parties concerned to achieve that vision," Mr Bush told the summit at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The US president was holding formal talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Jordan's King Abdullah, Bahrain's King Hamad and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas - better known as Abu Mazen.

He is seeking Arab support for the so-called roadmap for peace in the Middle East, before he holds his first summit with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers on Wednesday.

Earlier, the US president and Mr Mubarak met for talks, before both joined the other leaders for the formal summit.

We must not allow a few people, a few killers, a few terrorists, to destroy the dreams and hopes of the many
George W Bush

But behind the photo opportunity, it is clear there is plenty of mutual suspicion, says the BBC's Jon Leyne, in Sharm el-Sheik.

He says Arab leaders are wary of being seen as too pro-American and are uncertain about Mr Bush's commitment to the new peace plan.

On Tuesday morning, Israel began releasing about 100 Palestinian prisoners as part of goodwill measures aimed at boosting the implementation of the roadmap.

The head of the army's central command, General Moshe Kaplinsky, signed a release order for Palestinians held under administrative detention in military camps, a military spokesman said.

Scepticism

The BBC's Rob Watson - who is travelling with the US president - says this is Mr Bush's most direct involvement in Middle East peace-making to date.

At first reluctant to spend either his time or political capital on the problem, he is now promising to do just that.

ROADMAP MAIN POINTS
Phase 1 (to May 2003): End to Palestinian violence; Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal and freeze on settlement expansion; Palestinian elections
Phase 2: (June-Dec 2003) Creation of an independent Palestinian state; international conference and international monitoring of compliance with roadmap
Phase 3 (2004-2005): Second international conference; permanent status agreement and end of conflict; agreement on final borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements; Arab states to agree to peace deals with Israel

"We must not allow a few people, a few killers, a few terrorists, to destroy the dreams and hopes of the many," Mr Bush told the summit.

At the same time, he made clear that both sides had responsibility for achieving peace.

He said Israel "must deal with the settlements" to ensure "a continuous territory that the Palestinians can call home".

But Mr Bush also called on Arab leaders to close off sources of funding to militants and prevent "the terror from gaining a foothold", as he said they had promised.

Our correspondent says Mr Bush hopes the meeting will result in a strong condemnation of terrorism, and serve to endorse the leadership of Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen.

The US is refusing to deal with Yasser Arafat, who remains the official head of the Palestinian Authority.

Arab leaders were expected to ask Mr Bush for a firm commitment to the implementation of the roadmap. They want an end to Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory, assassinations and house demolitions.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, also in Egypt for the talks, said he was optimistic and expected the twin summits to produce support for the roadmap.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Let's give peace a chance
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

'Goodwill'

Ahead of the summit, Israel released a jailed member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, Taysir Khaled.

He had been arrested in the West Bank town of Nablus during a raid in February.

On Sunday, Israel said it was easing travel restrictions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - a move that could allow about 25,000 Palestinians to return to their jobs in Israel.

However, Palestinians say little has changed in many areas despite Israel's claim.

Violence has continued in Gaza, where a Palestinian policeman is reported to have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers at a security outpost.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Slee
"This was a short summit, setting the agenda for the long road towards peace"



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