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Bush 'Optimistic' On Prospects For Mideast Peace


Bush 'Optimistic' About Prospects for Mideast Peace

President Bush says he is optimistic about the prospect for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr. Bush made the comment Monday at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mr. Bush meets later today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Bush on Tuesday is to meet with both Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas together as part of a U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference in the city of Annapolis, outside Washington.

The conference will mark the first time in more than a decade that the Israelis will meet with representatives of 16 Arab nations and the Arab League. Saudi Arabia and Syria -- neither of which recognizes Israel's right to exist -- have pledged to attend.

U.S. National Security adviser Stephen Hadley says the conference will not involve formal negotiations, but will provide a chance for Israelis and Palestinians to move into the negotiating phase.

President Bush has said the talks are intended to give Israelis and Palestinians an opportunity to recommit to the road map. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the United States hopes for a peace deal between the sides before President Bush leaves office in early 2009.

Syria announced Sunday that its deputy foreign minister Faysal Mekdad will attend the conference. Damascus previously had said it would participate only if the talks included the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.

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The Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, says it will reject any decisions from the Annapolis conference.

ENDS

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