Bush in Qatar to thank coalition troops
DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- After trying to help Israeli and Palestinian leaders move forward on the road map to peace, President Bush arrived in Qatar where on Thursday he will get an update on the situation in Iraq and thank coalition troops for bringing about the regime change in Baghdad.
His visit to Qatar, a staunch U.S. ally that allowed the United States to base troops, weapons and combat equipment there, is Bush's last stop on his weeklong trip. It also marks the first-ever visit by a U.S. president to the emirate on the Arabian Peninsula.
Qatar, a country about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, is the home of U.S. Central Command. The key military post was moved there from Saudi Arabia.
Bush's one-day visit will begin with meeting Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the troops that defeated Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces, and with Paul Bremer, who as U.S. civil administrator, is helping Iraq rebuild.
"Great and hopeful change is coming to the Middle East," Bush announced in Jordan. "In Iraq, a dictator who funded terror and sowed conflict has been removed, and a more just and democratic society is emerging."
Qatar is also making democratic reforms. In late April, an overwhelming number of voters approved the country's new draft constitution that would give elected members a say in how the country is run.
Bush will meet with Qatar's head of state, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to thank him for his support from the Gulf War to the Iraq War.
After that, the U.S. commander-in-chief will head to Camp As Sayliyeh to personally thank the coalition troops for toppling Saddam and for their continuing work in helping the Iraqi people rebuild a more democratic country.
After the military rally, Bush will head back to Washington.
He will depart the Mideast believing there is an opening to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal because both sides are "sick and tired of death." (Full story)
"I will tell you that I'm pleased with the last two days. We have made a good beginning. And I emphasize beginning, because there's a lot of work to do," Bush said during a 40-minute conversation with reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Doha.
Bush said the statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas following the trilateral meeting were "historic."
"Amazing things were said," Bush said. "The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority talked about the suffering of Jewish people. It's a strong statement. The prime minister of Israel talked about a Palestinian state which was free. The statements were strong."
The president said it is critical the Palestinians and Israelis build much-needed trust by acting quickly on their summit promises.
"The trust is going to come from performance," Bush said.
Bush said he took pains to assure Sharon that he would never do anything to undermine Israel's security.
"I assured him that security is at the top of our agenda just like it is at the top of his agenda," Bush said. "I also told him he's got responsibilities."
Sharon said he planned to dismantle illegal settlements. Said Bush, "We now expect him to dismantle them."
After the Jordan summit, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would use all its efforts and resources to end the Palestinian uprising. (Full story)
Both Mideast leaders face opposition back at home. (Full story)
Bush said he envisioned his Mideast role in the weeks ahead as someone "to call people to account," intervening when the parties were not keeping pace with their promises.
"I used the expression 'ride herd.' I don't know if anybody understood in the meeting today."
Discussing his personal style, Bush said he made the most progress in informal settings -- both with Arab leaders in Egypt and at the Aqaba summit.
"I'm not a very formal guy to begin with," he told reporters. "One of my strengths is to relax people."
Bush also said he recognized U.S. leaders before him had optimistic moments, only to see the process collapse back into violence and mistrust.
"I don't fault past presidents for trying and failing," Bush said. "You've got to try."
CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.