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President meets Egypt's Mubarak on Palestinians
WASHINGTON -- President Bush praised what he called a new Arab understanding of the need to fight Middle East terrorism and welcomed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Camp David expecting to hear a firm appeal for a timetable on a Palestinian state.
Bush said Friday that after he consults with Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he will reveal his plan for putting peace negotiations back on track.
"Progress is being made," Bush said. "The Arab world now understands they need to be involved in pushing for peace and fighting against the terrorist actions that make it very difficult to achieve a peace."
Bush and Mubarak planned to talk at a Friday night dinner attended only by them and their respective national security advisers. They will hold broader discussions today with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Bush is to meet with Sharon on Monday. Later this summer, probably in Turkey, he intends to deliver a speech outlining his ideas for pushing the peace process forward, White House officials say.
The president wants to pursue two tracks: to urge Palestinians and Arab leaders to bring more democratic ways into the Palestinian Authority; and to offer suggestions for negotiations, perhaps a timetable of sorts toward Palestinian statehood.
The Bush administration hopes the promise of a democratic, peaceful Palestinian Authority would bolster confidence among Israelis that their country soon would be more secure. The push for negotiations toward a Palestinian state would give Arab leaders and Palestinians hope that the called-for changes could yield results for the Palestinians.
Bush is not expected to offer a detailed peace plan in the speech. He and his advisers have concluded that such a plan could not be implemented without more democratic Palestinian institutions.
The listening phase
Asked Friday if the administration is working on a draft peace plan for Bush to present after his consultations with Mubarak and Sharon, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said: "The president is still in the phase now of listening and gathering ideas."
Advisers have said they are preparing a series of options for Bush, including a timetable for peace talks. The president hopes to have the new initiative in place in time for a U.S.-sponsored Middle East conference next month in Turkey, aides said.
Mubarak is bringing Bush an urgent appeal to set a schedule for ending Israel's hold on the West Bank and Gaza and for Palestinian statehood.
In an interview with The Washington Post for Saturday editions, Mubarak said Palestinian violence against Israelis will not stop until the United States brokers a plan for Palestinian statehood.