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Bush works phones on latest Mideast crisis

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush spoke several times Saturday with members of his national security team about the latest violence in the Middle East, administration officials said.

"The president is deeply concerned and he calls on Mr. Arafat and the Palestinians to take concrete measures to end the violence immediately," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

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Officials said the president asked Secretary of State Colin Powell to call leaders in the Mideast and other key diplomatic players to bring about an agreement for a cease-fire, administration officials said.

Powell spoke to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and called Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan, European Union chief of foreign affairs Javier Solana, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who was traveling in the region.

Powell canceled a trip to a meeting of the Organization of American States in Costa Rica so he could stay in Washington to monitor the Mideast situation.

Bush, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, also spoke to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet.

Separately, a senior official said "it is encouraging" that Arafat had promised to work for a cease-fire "but we need to see it happen."

This official said Arafat assured Powell he would take the necessary steps to implement a cease-fire, and also said that U.S. diplomats were "with our friends" urging Israel to show restraint and hold off on any retaliatory strikes "and give Arafat a chance to back his words with deeds.







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