Bush: To take another step

According to media reports from  Washington, Bush would meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Kuwait or Qatar. A meeting may be scheduled as part of his trip later this month to the French Alps.

 

The road map has come under threat following a series of Israeli incursions into Palestine and counter-attacks by Palestinian human bombers.

 

On Tuesday, Bush spoke to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbasand and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

 

It was the first time Bush had spoken to Abbas since he took office on 30 April. They spoke by telephone for 15 minutes in what was a "friendly and hopeful conversation”, a White House spokesman said.

 

Abbas:Under pressure

Bush was expected to meet Sharon in Washington on Tuesday, but Sharon cancelled the trip following the human bombings against Israelis. Instead, they spoke by phone, with Bush telling Sharon that Abbas "is a reformer who will work for peace."

   

"The president talked about the importance of remaining committed to the peace process in the Middle East, to working forward on the road map," said the spokesman.

 

Bush, Mubarak talk

  

Bush also spoke on the phone to Hosni Mubarak, the President of Egypt, on Tuesday to discuss ways to "stop the violence" between the Palestinians and Israelis.

 

The two leaders "exchanged views on the means to create a favourable climate to apply concrete measures to stop the violence and counter-violence, in order to restart the peace process," an Egyptian official spokesperson said.

 

They discussed "efforts deployed to lift obstacles blocking the application of the road map" for peace established by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

 

Mubarak warned during the coversation that "the situation would be very serious if the two sides did not take serious steps on the path of peace, in the interests of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

 

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said during a visit to Cairo earlier this week that the Abbas administration hoped to get Palestinian armed groups to agree to a one-year truce to give the road map a chance.

  

He added Palestinian groups would soon resume their dialogue in Cairo, under Egyptian auspices, to reach such an agreement.