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U.S. Urges Middle East Avoid Heightened Tensions


U.S. Urges All in Middle East to Avoid Heightened Tensions

White House Report, Oct. 7: Middle East, Iraq, Turkey, leak investigation

President Bush repeated October 7 that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism but at the same time said it is important that Israeli actions not escalate the violence in the Middle East.

Asked if Israel's strike on Syria caused an escalation in the violence, Bush responded: "The prime minister must defend his country. It's essential. This is a country which recently was attacked by a suicider that killed innocent children and women, people that were celebrating in a restaurant. And he must do what is necessary to protect himself. At the same time, as I said yesterday and will continue to say to Ariel Sharon, avoid escalating violence."

Bush made his comments in a short question-and-answer session with reporters following a meeting at the White House with his cabinet on national and economic security matters.

Later, at his noon briefing, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked what the United States is doing to prevent a war in the Middle East, following the weekend's suicide terror bombing in Israeli and Israel's retaliatory attack on a suspected terrorist camp in Syria.

The United States is "in touch will all parties in the region" and is "continuing to urge parties not to take steps that would escalate the situation, to avoid heightened tensions in the region. That's what we are doing," McClellan said.

"[E]verybody needs to work to fight terrorism in the region, particularly the new Palestinian prime minister and cabinet," McClellan said. "They need to be empowered so that they can dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. That's the way forward, that's the way to move forward on the two-state vision."

"We've also said that Israel certainly has a right to defend herself, but that they should keep in mind the consequences of the actions that they take," McClellan said. "But let's keep in mind that there was a vicious attack on innocent men, women and children in Haifa over the weekend. Some 19 men, women and children were killed, innocent men, women and children, and a number more were injured. So that's what we continue to say."

Asked if the road map for peace is alive, McClellan said "We remain committed to the road map. We made some progress on it after [the June 4 talks in] Aqaba. We always said that there would be difficulties along the way. We have been in a difficult period. But it's important to remind all parties that they have responsibilities under this road map, and one of the first and foremost responsibilities is to fight terrorism."

BOTH U.S. MILITARY AND IRAQIS ACTING TO IMPROVE SECURITY IN IRAQ

Asked what the United States plans to do to curb the violence in Iraq, McClellan said the U.S. military is using its "full force and might" against foreign terrorists in the country and against the remnants of the former regime. "But also, more and more Iraqis are taking responsibility for their security and for the stabilization of the country," he said.

Just this weekend, McClellan said, some 700 Iraqis graduated as the first battalion of the new Iraqi army, and some 40-50,000 Iraqis are members of the Iraqi police force. "So there are a number of steps being taken on both the coalition front and the transferring of responsibility for their own security to the Iraqi people."

WHITE HOUSE WELCOMES TURKEY'S DECISION TO SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ

McClellan said the White House welcomes the decision by Turkey's parliament to approve the deployment of Turkish troops to Iraq.

"[W]e welcome that decision," he said.

"We welcome countries coming in to provide even broader international participation in our efforts in Iraq, and we will be working on the specific details with Turkey as we move forward."

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