Mubarak, Bush Vow to Cooperate on Forging Middle East Peace
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President George W. Bush vowed Monday to cooperate on forging Middle East peace, but the US leader gave no sign he would take a more active role in ending violence between Israel and the Palestinians, said AFP.
"We're very engaged in the Middle East and will remain so," Bush said during a joint Oval Office appearance after the closed-door meeting with Mubarak, the first Arab leader to meet with the president since he took office January 20.
"The role for strong countries, like ourselves and Egypt, is to encourage, first, the violence to end, and secondly, for discussions to begin again. And I'm very optimistic and hopeful that we will be able to achieve that," he added.
Mubarak said he retained "great hopes" that Bush would exert "maximum effort" to help foster an end to some six months of deadly clashes, the agency quoted him as saying.
"He is committed to work for peace," assured the Egyptian president, whose visit came just two weeks after Bush received Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and a week before Jordanian King Abdullah II holds similar talks with the US President.
Bush also indicated that US Secretary of State Colin Powell had discussed the situation in the Middle East with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon early Monday, and aides say Bush himself has made over two dozen calls to regional leaders.
Haaretz newspaper reported that the two discussed the security situation in the region, and that the conversation was a continuation of their talk from last week.
Israeli government officials said that Sharon told Powell that the Palestinian Authority is not making any effort to thwart the “terrorism,” as it had agreed to do.
Therefore, Sharon told Powell, Israel has no choice other than to take measures necessary for fighting terrorism and defending its soldiers and civilians.
A senior US administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, all but ruled out any personal mediation by Bush until the violence ends, said AFP.
The official also said Bush urged Mubarak to send his ambassador to Israel back to his post.
Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv last year in protest at Israel's handling of the Palestinian uprising.
The official confirmed that Bush asked Mubarak to urge Arafat to call for a halt to the violence, and that the Egyptian leader, in turn, asked Washington to use its influence with Israel "to try to find a way to calm the situation," AFP quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians officially called on the United States to resume its role as the leading mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to abandon its policy of "unconditional support" for Sharon.
"We ask the United States to resume its leadership and mediating role in the current conflict," Palestinian information Yasser Abed Rabbo said in a statement – Albawaba.com
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