- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

A procession of foreign leaders from the Middle East and Asia visited President Bush on Thursday, capitalizing on their trip to the United Nations this week to gain an audience at the White House.

Mr. Bush, on a day dominated by a historic meeting on the economy with the presidential candidates and congressional leaders, met with the presidents of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, and the prime minister of India.

The president has two more high-profile meetings Friday, with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

The meetings are focused on a number of serious issues of long-term importance to the U.S.

One of the most pressing is India’s hope that the Democrat-led Congress will approve a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. The deal is scheduled for a vote in the House on Friday.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in Washington to lobby Congress for votes in support of the deal, but his job has been greatly complicated by the U.S. economic crisis. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, is one of the deal’s biggest supporters.

Mr. Bush’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas provided little in the way of news about the peace talks that the Bush administration launched with fanfare one year ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned earlier this month under the cloud of a corruption probe, sidetracking progress on talks that the White House had hoped could culminate in an agreement by the end of Mr. Bush’s time in office.

Mr. Bush expressed some hope that this could still happen.

“I’ve got four more months left in office and I’m hopeful that the vision that you and I have worked on can come to pass. And my only pledge to you is that I’ll continue to work hard to see that it can come to pass,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Abbas.

“Hope will remain, Mr. President. We cannot live without hope. We will continue to work to achieve and realize that hope,” Mr. Abbas said.

Mr. Bush will discuss with Mr. Karzai the increasing violence in Afghanistan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, met with Mr. Karzai on Capitol Hill on Thursday and voiced concern over security in Afghanistan.

“It is a concern to us that the international effort that was begun seven years ago to rid Afghanistan of the consequences of the Taliban have not proven to be successful as of yet,” she said.

In other White House business Thursday, Mr. Bush signed a bill expanding the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act, contrary to court decisions in recent years that said the anti-discrimination law did not apply to partial physical disabilities or impairments that can be treated with medication or devices such as hearing aids.

The president signed the bill within view of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, who counted the 1990 law a major achievement of his administration. The two men later took a private walk on the White House grounds. The bill was signed without public comment or fanfare.

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