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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 04:27 GMT 05:27 UK
Bush lays out Mid-East aims
President Bush at the Red Sea summit
Bush got support from Arab leaders for his peace drive
US President George W Bush is preparing to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders to push for progress towards peace in the Middle East.

President Bush will hold separate discussions with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, before the three of them meet together for the first time.

Israel must make sure there is a contiguous territory the Palestinians can call home
George W Bush

At talks with Arab leaders in Egypt on Tuesday, Mr Bush said Israel would have to make concessions on the issue of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

At the same time, he said Arab states must close sources of funding for terrorist groups.

Mr Bush said that if all sides fulfilled their commitments, they could make steady progress towards peace.

Egyptian pledge

After the meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egyptian President Mubarak promised to fight militants.

"We are going to utilise all means possible to block support for terrorist organisations," President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said.

However the leaders did not name any specific groups, and failed fully to endorse Abu Mazen - a moderate supported by the Bush administration.

The US regards militant Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as terrorist organisations - a view not shared across the Arab world.

Vision

"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 said.

A released Palestinian prisoner kisses the ground after his release in Tulkarm
About 100 Palestinian prisoners have returned home

The US president called on Israel to live up to its obligations under the roadmap - as the international peace plan for the Middle East is known.

"Israel has got a responsibility. Israel must deal with the settlements," he said.

"Israel must make sure there is a contiguous territory the Palestinians can call home," Mr Bush added.

After Tuesday's talks, US officials conceded that the peace process would be tough - but insisted the backing of Arab leaders was at least a start.

Power of law

"We will use all the power of the law to prevent support reaching illegal organisations including terrorist groups," Mr Mubarak said.

He said they supported the Palestinian Authority's (PA) insistence on ending violence and Arab assistance to the Palestinians would solely go through the PA.

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

The Egyptian president said Arab leaders were against terror and violence and rejected "the culture of extremism and violence in any form or shape, from whatever source or place, regardless of justifications or motives".

Many will read this to mean violence whether it emanates from Israel or the Palestinians, says the BBC's Heba Saleh in Egypt.

Mr Bush had hoped to get Arab leaders to support Abu Mazen, but their statement had only a passing reference to him, as Arab countries remain reluctant to undermine Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Ahead of Wednesday's summit, Israel began releasing about 100 Palestinian prisoners as part of goodwill measures aimed at boosting the implementation of the roadmap.

They included Ahmad Jbarah - the longest-serving inmate who spent nearly three decades in jail - and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, Taysir Khaled, arrested in February.




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SEE ALSO:
Mid-East summit aims at 'baby steps'
02 Jun 03  |  Middle East


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