A White House announcement that the two leaders would meet next Thursday and Friday comes after Blair pledged to press Bush - re-elected for a second term - over the issue of the Middle East.

The announcement of the meeting comes as a gravely ill Palestinian President Yasir Arafat fights for his life in a French military hospital.

Bush views Arafat as an obstacle to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Earlier this week, Bush promised to revive the peace talks and work toward the goal of a Palestinian state during his second four years in office.

Blair would be the first foreign leader to visit Bush after he won the close presidential race on 2 November.

After Bush's victory, Blair said revitalising the Middle East peace process was "the single most pressing political challenge in our world today".