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Bush promises 'road map' for Mideast peace

'A hopeful moment for progress'

Secretary of State Colin Powell listens as President Bush speaks Friday  in the Rose Garden.
Secretary of State Colin Powell listens as President Bush speaks Friday in the Rose Garden.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush said Friday he would unveil a "road map" for peace in the Middle East once a Palestinian prime minister with "real authority" is in office.

In a brief statement in the White House Rose Garden, the president said that the formation of a new government in Israel -- in the wake of recent elections -- and the creation by the Palestinians of a prime minister's post offered a "new opportunity" for peace.

"Israeli and Palestinian leaders and other governments in the region now have a chance to move forward with determination and with good faith," Bush said.

Bush has been urged by diplomats across the globe, concerned about the wider effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to take a more active role in a peace settlement.

"We have reached a hopeful moment for progress toward the vision of Middle Eastern peace that I outlined last June," he said, referring to a plan that outlined steps toward peace announced last year. "I spoke of a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, will live side by side in peace and security."

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer dismissed suggestions that Bush was speaking up on the Middle East to win support in the U.N. Security Council for another resolution on Iraq. Fleischer said the president was addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of recent developments involving both parties.

"I think it would be surprising if the president did not speak out at a time like this," Fleischer told reporters at the daily White House briefing.

The Palestinian Authority is expected soon to confirm Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's choice for prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who also known as Abu Mazen.

"Immediately upon confirmation, the road map for peace will be given to the Palestinians and the Israelis," Bush said, referring to the plan as a "sequence of steps."

He reiterated some steps that both the Israelis and Palestinians must take to settle the conflict. Bush said that as "progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end."

The president said a Palestinian state must be "reformed," "peaceful" and "democratic" and must "abandon forever the use of terror."

Said Bush: "There can be no peace for either side in the Middle East unless there is freedom for both."

The United States has developed this plan over the last several months in close cooperation with Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

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