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President Says Mideast Peace Accord Possible Within a Year

On the third day of his trip to the Middle East, President Bush predicted that there will be a peace treaty between Israeli and Palestinian leaders before he leaves office -- while acknowledging that such an agreement will require "painful concessions" by both sides. Mideast experts offer perspective on the Mr. Bush's pledge.

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    The president crossed into the West Bank just after 9:00 a.m. under cloudy skies on his first trip to Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greeted him at the Fatah government's headquarters, once besieged by the Israeli army.

    They spoke to reporters after their meeting.

  • MAHMOUD ABBAS, President, Palestinian Authority (through translator):

    This is an historic visit which gives our people great hope that your great nation will stand by their dream.


    After his four-hour visit, the president returned to Jerusalem and repeated his belief that a peace agreement can be reached before the end of the year.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: The establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue. The Palestinian people deserve it.

    And it will enhance the stability of the region, and it will contribute to the security of the people of Israel. The peace agreement should happen, and can happen, by the end of this year.


    He offered one example of what he meant.


    There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.


    The president's trip began yesterday when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He urged Israelis to put an end to unauthorized outposts on the West Bank.


    I'm under no illusions. It's going to be hard work. I fully understand that there's going to be some painful political compromises.

    I fully understand that there's going to be some tough negotiations. And the role of the United States is to help in those negotiations.


    Bush also urged the Palestinians to stop harboring terrorists, a call echoed by Olmert.

    EHUD OLMERT, Prime Minister of Israel: There will be no peace unless terror is stopped. And as long as there will be terror from Gaza, it will be very, very hard to reach any peaceful understanding.


    But the president's push for peace was not welcomed in Hamas-ruled Gaza, where hundreds of demonstrators gathered to protest his visit yesterday. Today, Hamas leaders questioned the rhetoric of the meetings.

  • FAWZI BARHOUM, Hamas Spokesman (through translator):

    President Bush's statement is an empty one. We cannot depend on it, and we cannot build the hopes of the Palestinian people on it.


    The president said he would return to the region before the end of the year. His eight-day trip continues tomorrow in Kuwait.

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