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Palestinian PM Says Will Meet Bush on July 25 (REUTERS) By Wafa Amr RAMALLAH 07/16/03 04:05 PM ET) Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=3102807
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he would hold talks with President Bush in Washington on July 25 in efforts to push forward a U.S.-backed peace plan.
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It will be Abbas´ first talks in Washington although he met Bush at a Middle East summit in Jordan last month. The meeting signals Bush´s determination to build on recent progress in peace efforts and U.S. support for the reformist premier.
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Bush has refused to meet Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, accusing him of fomenting more than 33 months of violence, but has praised Abbas for trying to implement the U.S.-led peace "road map."
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Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is also expected to visit the United States at the end of July. It was not immediately clear whether Abbas´ visit would coincide with Sharon´s, or whether they might hold another summit with Bush.
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There was no immediate comment from Washington.
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"Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said he would be traveling to Washington to meet President Bush on July 25," Abbas´s office said in a statement released in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
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It quoted Abbas as saying: "This visit will focus on moving forward in the implementation of the road map, particularly the Israeli commitments -- the foremost being the freezing of settlement activities, as well as freeing Palestinian political prisoners and other key issues underlined in the peace plan."
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Sharon and Abbas have accepted the road map drawn up by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union. It outlines reciprocal steps to end violence and establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel in 2005.
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Palestinian militant groups have declared a three-month truce and Israeli forces have staged partial troop withdrawals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories which they occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
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But sporadic violence has continued and the Palestinians are pressing Israel to show good will by releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
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Israel has released some Palestinian prisoners but refuses to free militants or anyone who was involved in attacks on Israelis, saying that doing so would hinder peace efforts.
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The Palestinians are urging Israel to carry out a commitment to freeze construction at Jewish settlements built on occupied land in the West Bank and Gaza, which the international community regards as illegal. Israel disputes this.
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Israel says Palestinian leaders must do more to rein in militants who have carried out suicide bombings and other attacks since the start of the Palestinian uprising for independence almost three years ago. (© Reuters 2003 07/16/03)
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