Bush: Might Meet With Mideast Leaders
President Bush Says He Might Meet With Mideast Leaders if It Will Help Create Palestinian State
The Associated Press
CRAWFORD, Texas May 23 —
President Bush said Friday he will consider meeting with the Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers if it will help them move toward creating a Palestinian state.
"I understand it's going to be difficult to achieve peace. But I believe it can happen," Bush told reporters after meeting at his ranch with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Bush said his administration's pledge to fully and seriously address Israel's security concerns under a new peace plan gave a crucial nudge toward Israel's formal acceptance of a formula for accord with the Palestinians.
"Prime Minister Sharon accepted the road map, and that's progress," Bush said.
The president said he is "exploring the opportunities" for meeting with Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in the near future.
"If a meeting advances progress toward two states living side by side in peace, I will strongly consider such a meeting," Bush said. "I'm committed to working toward peace in the Middle East."
Before Bush spoke, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, released a statement stressing that there is room to hear contrasting views on the so-called "road map" peace plan. But at a news conference in Paris, Powell said: "With respect to the road map, we're not planning on making any changes to the road map."
"We have told the Israeli government that we would take their comments and address them seriously and fully as we went forward in the implementation of the road map," Powell, who was meeting in Paris with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, told reporters.
"This does not require us to change the road map. It is a good document that leads to the president's vision of two states living in peace side by side," Powell said.
Koizumi lauded Bush's effort to spur renewed peace efforts in the Middle East, and said "the world should cooperate together" to make the region more peaceful and stable. He said he will visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia in coming days to engage Arab nations on Iraqi reconstruction.