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June 05, 2003

Bush optimistic after Jordan summit

Perhaps he is medication?
US President George Bush was optimistic today after yesterday's landmark summit with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.In his first serious venture into Middle East peacemaking, he won the support of Arab leaders for his road map peace plan, and then gained promises from both premiers to work towards an end to the violence.

"It was a good beginning," Bush said of yesterday's meeting in Jordan with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas. "It's a start." Sharon, the Israeli premier, pledged to dismantle Israeli outposts on the West Bank. "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state," Bush said.

Sharon's Palestinian counterpart Abbas said the armed uprising against Israel must end and that the Palestinians "must use and resort to peaceful means in our quest to end the occupation". The statements suggested both sides were ready to take the first steps towards realising Washington's road map – which envisions a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel by 2005. "Amazing things were said," Bush said as he flew to Qatar to meet Gen Tommy Franks, head of US Central Command, and to speak to US troops.

But Bush was also cautious: "There are killers lurking in the neighbourhood" who want to thwart any agreement, he said. The US-backed plan requires far more than what was said at the summit.
It demands of the Palestinian leadership "sustained, targeted and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror" as well as the dismantling of "terrorist capabilities and infrastructures".

Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian Authority's security minister, said yesterday that the "intefadeh as a concept of an armed confrontation has ended, but the intefadeh as a struggle by the Palestinian people as a whole in the quest for regaining the rights of the Palestinians will continue."

Dahlan, who has won praise from the Bush administration, said there was now a real and serious opportunity "to extract the Palestinian state from Sharon's fangs". Sharon faces tough decisions on how much land to turn over to a provisional Palestinian state, how many Jewish settlers will be forced to quit the West Bank and whether he will give up part of Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital. Bush signalled he was hardening his demands of Israel, saying the Jewish state must "deal" with the settlements issue.