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Bush asks Abbas to ‘fight terror’

Published May 21, 2003 12:00am

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WASHINGTON, May 20: US President George W. Bush spoke on Tuesday for the first time with Palestinian prime minister Mahmud Abbas and stressed the “absolute need” to fight “terrorism” in the Middle East, the White House said.

The 15-minute telephone conversation with Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, was “friendly and hopeful,” Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.

Mr Bush also telephoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss measures to contain the spiralling violence in Middle East. “President Bush’s judgment is that Abu Mazen understands that the future success, health and welfare of the Palestinian people begins with attacking those who are violent and seek to derail the peace,” Mr Fleisher added.

The conversation came as Israel was on high alert after five Palestinian suicide attacks in 48 hours, which killed 12 people, not including the bombers, and injured hundreds.

Bush renewed his commitment to the so-called “roadmap” to peace, which calls for creating a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel by 2005, and “reiterated the absolute need for all parties to fight terror,” said Fleischer.

“The president stressed the need for all parties to take concrete steps, called for cooperative efforts between all Arab parties and Israel to create the conditions for peace and security in the Middle East.”

“Abu Mazen told the president he was committed to reform, to peace and to ending all acts of terror,” said the spokesman. “The president was pleased with the conversation.”

Bush “believes that Abu Mazen is a reformer, that Abu Mazen is dedicated to peace and that Abu Mazen wants to do everything in his power to fight terrorism to crack down on those who would interfere with the peace,” said Fleischer.

The two leaders did not discuss specific steps to crack down on extremist violence, nor did they address Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s role in the peace process, said the spokesman.

But Bush did say he looked forward to future conversations with Abbas and to hosting him at the White House, where he aims to welcome Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon soon for his eighth visit, said Fleischer.

“The president will say to all parties, including Israel, that they have responsibilities that they, too, need to take to help achieve peace,” he said.

Sharon postponed a trip here — including a Tuesday meeting with Bush — due to the recent spate of violence.

MUBARAK: The Egyptian news agency, MENA, said Mr Bush and Mr Mubarak “exchanged views on the means to create a favorable climate to apply concrete measures to stop the violence and counterviolence, in order to restart the peace process”.

They also discussed “efforts deployed to lift obstacles blocking the application of the roadmap” for peace established by the US, Russia, the EU and the UN, MENA said.—AFP


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