Bush calls for 'moral vision' in Middle East
Mubarak: Arab leaders vow to cut off terrorist funds
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- Calling for "courage and moral vision on every side from every leader," President Bush said Tuesday that he was "committed to helping all the parties" in the Middle East "reach the hard and heroic decisions that will lead to peace."
His statement followed a meeting with Arab leaders in Egypt ahead of Wednesday's summit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders designed to promote comprehensive peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was host of the summit and spoke on behalf of the Arab leaders, said he and the others welcomed the U.S.-backed "road map" for peace in their region and promised to cut off funding for terrorist groups.
"We will use the full force of the law to stop funds getting to illegal organizations including terrorist groups," Mubarak said in a statement after the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.
"We call on Israel to simultaneously fulfill its own responsibilities, to rebuild trust and to restore normal Palestinian life," Mubarak said. "And to carry out its obligations to the road map, thus promoting progress toward the president's vision." (Full story)
During Tuesday's summit, Bush said Israel "must deal with the settlements" and the Palestinians must not allow "a few terrorists" to thwart Middle East peace.
The summit, to build support for the so-called road map leading to Israeli-Palestinian co-existence, precedes a historic meeting set for Wednesday in Aqaba, Jordan, where Bush is scheduled to sit down with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"When I say something I mean it," Bush said at the start of the summit. "The world needs to have a Palestinian state that is free and at peace, and therefore my government will work with all parties concerned to achieve that vision. I believe now is the time to work to achieve the vision."
Tuesday's meeting also included Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Hamad bin Issa of Bahrain and Abbas, popularly known as Abu Mazen.
Bush told the Arab leaders that he plans to work with all parties concerned to achieve the vision of a Palestinian state and urged the Palestinians and the other Arab leaders not to let "a few killers" thwart the "dreams and hopes of the many."
Bush also said "Israel's got responsibilities.
"Israel must deal with the settlements," Bush said. "Israel must make sure there is a continuous territory the Palestinians can call home."
Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories are a key element in the road map to peace.
The U.S.-backed road map -- which also is supported by Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- calls for Israeli and Palestinian concessions that would lead to a proposed independent Palestinian state by 2005.
Bush made his post-summit comments during a joint outdoor statement with Mubarak at the shore of the Red Sea.
Bush held two bilateral meetings at the summit, one with Mubarak and the other with Crown Prince Abdullah.
Israeli officials have asked the Bush administration to use the Egypt summit to convey also the importance of Arab leaders publicly accepting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
Israel hopes the United States will encourage Egypt and Jordan to send the ambassadors whom they pulled after the latest Palestinian-Israeli conflict began in September 2000.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath said Monday: "We need, first of all, to see President Bush continue what looks like a real involvement. ... We would like him to continue that role as supporter of this peace process, to push to get it implemented on the ground. We want the Arabs to help do that."
• The Bush administration was considering asking Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf to lead the U.S. Mideast negotiating team, administration officials told CNN on Tuesday. Wolf is a 30-year veteran of the foreign service, and the administration officials say his work as assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation -- especially his work on the Iraq issues -- has impressed officials at the State Department and the White House.
• Israel began releasing about 100 Palestinian prisoners in areas of the West Bank on Tuesday as part of the implementation of the road map, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said. Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, head of the IDF central command, signed orders Tuesday shortening the administrative detention of the prisoners, starting the release process, the IDF said.