- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

President Bush yesterday praised a new Middle East peace proposal by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but cautioned that the violence must end before peace negotiations can begin in earnest.
"There has got to be a vision for peace in order for us to head toward peace," Mr. Bush said in a joint appearance with Mr. Mubarak at the White House. "But I want to remind everybody that it's going to be difficult to achieve any kind of peace, so long as there is a cycle of violence."
Israel had already rejected Mr. Mubarak's overture by the time the Egyptian leader met with Mr. Bush in the White House late yesterday. Mr. Mubarak had suggested Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat hold talks in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt.
Still, Mr. Bush praised the Egyptian proposal, as well as another peace initiative suggested last week by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
"The president of Egypt has made an offer for dialogue that will help lead to peace, hopefully," Mr. Bush said. "Crown Prince Abdullah has as well."
Mr. Mubarak said he will continue pushing for peace when Vice President Richard B. Cheney visits Egypt and other Mideast nations later this month.
"Egypt took many pioneering steps toward peace in the Middle East," Mr. Mubarak said. "Our partnership has an indispensable role to play in helping the parties directly involved in the conflict find a just and comprehensive solution."
Before meeting with Mr. Bush, the Egyptian president gave a speech urging the United States to act swiftly against the Palestinian-Israeli violence exploding in the Middle East.
"There are losses of life from both sides Israelis and Palestinians every single day, which is terrible," Mr. Mubarak told the Council on Foreign Relations and the Middle East Institute.
"So this complicated situation, which has lasted now about 18 months without any interval, is terrible and needs some effort to break the cycle of violence," he added. "Otherwise more escalation, more losses, and I am afraid the whole area will be in trouble."
Mr. Bush said he is willing to send his Mideast peace envoy, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, back to the region "when appropriate." The president also said he wants to work with both sides to implement a security plan devised by CIA Director George J. Tenet.
The president said his administration is "determined to redouble our efforts to work for peace." But his spokesman, Ari Fleischer, cautioned that Mr. Arafat must rein in the violence and Mr. Sharon must refrain from provoking Palestinians.
Mr. Mubarak implored the administration to plunge into the peace process with a new sense of urgency.
"We have to do whatever we can with the administration here to bring the two parties together," he said. "[Palestinians and Israelis] should sit, whether they like it or not."
"We have to find the solution," he added. "There is no other way out."
Mr. Mubarak said the Arab-Israel conflict threatened the stability of the entire region.
"A land was acquired by force," he said. "This occupation, with its settlements and its grief for all involved has denied an entire people its right to a nation, to an identity, and to a future to call its own."
"Occupation must end," he added. "Palestinians must have their viable state. Coexistence and security for all countries in the region must be guaranteed."
Mr. Bush went out of his way to reiterate his desire for an independent Palestinian state. Mr. Fleischer suggested this goal was particularly notable coming from "a Republican president."
Despite Israel's rejection of Egypt's offer, Mr. Mubarak said yesterday it remains "on the table."
He also said he supported the Saudi peace plan, which offers Israel normalization of relations with all Arab states if it gives up all land captured in the 1967 war.
Although the Bush and Sharon governments refuse to meet with Mr. Arafat, Mr. Mubarak said the Palestinian leader was "the only figure" who could negotiate peace on behalf of his people.


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