- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

President Bush has invited Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, next month to discuss the establishment of a Palestinian state, the White House said yesterday .

“I believe there will be a Palestinian state based upon democratic institutions,” Mr. Bush told an audience yesterday in Pensacola, Fla. “And I know it’s in Israel’s interest and in the Palestinians’ interest for there to be two states, two democracies, living side by side in peace.”

The meeting, set for April 11, will be Mr. Sharon’s first visit to the president’s 1,600-acre spread, which Mr. Bush calls Prairie Chapel Ranch. The two leaders have met several times in the White House.

“The president looks forward to discussing a wide range of issues with Prime Minister Sharon, including the hopeful period it is in the Middle East for advancing peace,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One.

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas persuaded 13 Palestinian militant groups to stop attacking Israel. Mr. Sharon called the agreement “a positive first step” toward peace.

Earlier this week, Israel relinquished control of Jericho in the West Bank as a show of good faith to Mr. Abbas. The Palestinian leader and Mr. Sharon agreed on Feb. 8 in Egypt to bring a halt to violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

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