Mubarak to push Bush to set date for Palestinian state
(CNN) -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is expected to call for the United States to name a date for the creation of a Palestinian state when he meets President Bush at Camp David, Maryland, late Friday for talks on the Middle East situation.
Mubarak, in Washington for talks with Bush and senior U.S. officials, to hear the latest U.S. thinking on the Middle East will to argue that Bush should pick a date, probably sometime next year, for the establishment of a Palestinian state, according to aides.
But one senior U.S. official intimately involved in the Middle East strategy said Bush still considered this a time for consultations, and said there was no thought being given to putting a detailed, new U.S. peace proposal on the table in the immediate future.
In an interview Friday with CNN's Paula Zahn, Mubarak was asked if he condemned the recent suicide bombings in Israel.
"We are against killing innocent civilians. By all means. we are against that, if it's on the Israeli side or on the Palestinian side," Mubarak said.
" But look, why are they doing this? We should see the cause. The cause is that the people are desperate from the present situation. They cannot find. They cannot work. They cannot live. They cannot find medicine. They cannot send their children to school, so the people, they are desperate," he said (Full transcript).
Mubarak is also likely to press Bush for U.S. participation in an international conference on the Middle East sometime this summer during the talks which will continue on Saturday.
June was the initial target date, and some in the U.S. administration are pressing for a gathering in July with Turkey emerging as the leading option for a site.
But a senior State Department official said there remained significant disagreements among the interested parties as to who should attend and how detailed and specific the agenda should be.
"The goal is the sooner the better ... but no one is packing their bags," this official said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is also scheduled to fly to the United States this weekend and to hold meetings with Bush on Monday.
He is expected to hear the latest U.S. thinking on peace in the Middle East and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told reporters he understood the United States is working on a compromise.
"This is something new emerging in the U.S., which says that the Palestinians will give up on the right of return in exchange for Israel giving up on the settlements," he said Thursday.
However, a senior U.S. official sought to shoot down Peres' comments, saying the Bush administration is "not doing any real thinking on permanent status issues."
The right of return demand by Palestinians, who either fled or were evacuated from lands that became Israel in 1948, has remained one of the biggest roadblocks to reaching a Middle East peace settlement.
Israel objects to allowing the Palestinians to return to Israel because doing so would create a Palestinian majority -- changing Israel from a Jewish to a Palestinian state.
The settlements have also become a major issue. Many ultra-Orthodox settlers maintain they have a biblical right to live in the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians have said that the settlers are on the land illegally and the Israeli soldiers who guard them are an occupation force. There are more than 200,000 settlers in the territories.
Peres said he believed Israel should re-engage the Palestinians in negotiations and should cooperate with the United States, Russia and the European countries in attempting to reach a settlement.
The Jerusalem daily Ha'aretz said its diplomatic correspondent had seen a U.S. State Department draft of a regional peace plan that calls for the creation of a Palestinian state with Israel withdrawing to the borders it observed before the 1967 Six Day War.
That plan, it reported, is intended to serve as the political basis for convening a regional peace conference on the Middle East.
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