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Abbas and Bush will meet today

Associated Press
Published October 20, 2005

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas wants President Bush to pressure Israel to dismantle illegal outposts, allow free elections and reverse a newly imposed policy of keeping Palestinian motorists off main West Bank roads, officials say.

Bush wants Abbas to act more decisively against militants.

As the two leaders prepare to meet in Washington today, Abbas' chief of staff said Bush is showing new energy in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Israel's recent Gaza withdrawal is yielding few peace dividends, and some argue that Washington's lackluster involvement is partly responsible.

The United States has made some overtures to the Palestinians in recent days - chiding Israel, albeit gently, for the West Bank road policy and granting a Palestinian delegation in Washington to lay the groundwork for the 40-minute audience with Bush in the Oval Office.

"I think there is now in him (Bush) some vigor in trying to resolve" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rafiq Husseini, Abbas' chief of staff, said. "If he is seen to be working with vigor toward this issue, then this will be rewarded by an Arab-Muslim street looking favorably at American policy in the Middle East."

But today's meeting with Abbas comes at a low point in Israeli-Palestinian relations, with negotiations between the sides suspended after a deadly attack last week on Israeli civilians in the West Bank.

Many had hoped the Gaza pullout, ending a 38-year Israeli presence in the coastal strip, would re-energize Mideast peacemaking. Instead, the month after the withdrawal has seen a return to violence and mutual recriminations, hurting economic efforts in Gaza.

[Last modified October 20, 2005, 01:20:19]

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