Monday, July 16, 2007

President Bush is set to renew his commitment to Mideast peace and announce new aid to help the embattled Palestinian Authority president create a viable state that can exist with Israel, administration officials said yesterday.

Mr. Bush — taking on a more personal, high-profile role in the conflict — planned to speak today at the White House about U.S. financial and diplomatic support for President Mahmoud Abbas. He controls just the West Bank after the Islamic militant group Hamas gained authority in Gaza last month.

“The president sees there is an opportunity there now to show the Palestinian people a choice between the kind of violence and chaos under Hamas in Gaza and the prospect, under President Abbas and Prime Minister [Salem] Fayyad, for an effective, democratic Palestinian state that can be on the way toward what we all want, which is a two-state solution — a Palestinian homeland for the Palestinian people,” said National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

Mr. Hadley did not elaborate about the type of financial assistance that the president would discuss. But a senior administration official said Mr. Hadley was signaling that the president would announce aid beyond the $86 million that the White House has requested from Congress. That money was to help provide security for Mr. Abbas.

The administration also has said it would contribute $40 million to the United Nations to help the Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip, now controlled by Hamas. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Bush had not made the announcement.

The nearly 3 million Palestinian residents essentially have two governments — one controlled by Hamas in Gaza and the other by Mr. Abbas in the West Bank.

Hamas is an Islamist terrorist group that disdains any peace with Israel and is sworn to its destruction as an absolute religious obligation. Mr. Abbas’ Fatah movement long has been connected to and committed terrorist acts but is now seeking peace with the Jewish state.

Mr. Abbas, who planned to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today, consolidated his control of the West Bank on Saturday and installed a government of moderates, led by Mr. Fayyad.

Hamas said that Mr. Abbas’ move was unconstitutional and that the group pledged to challenge the new government. Israel and the U.S. moved quickly to back Mr. Abbas.

Mr. Bush is “going to talk about what we can do to support President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad in their efforts to build now a democratic and effective Palestinian state,” Mr. Hadley said on ABC’s “This Week.” “He will have some ideas to suggest about what we are going to do to support them financially, diplomatically.”

The timing of Mr. Bush’s remarks reflects Mr. Fayyad’s move from a temporary position into a more permanent role, said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House.

“This is the time to demonstrate increased support for this effort and to get the international community more engaged in this process as well,” he said.

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