The Associated Press
April 29, 2008 - 5:13pm

US President George W. Bush will visit Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in May, a trip intended to hail Israel's 60th anniversary but also shove along Mideast peace talks that have stalled as Bush's term winds down.

The White House on Monday released details of Bush's trip, the broad outline of which had been expected for weeks. Bush, who was in the Middle East in January to try to advance peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, had indicated at that time he would return in May to honor Israel's founding.

Pushing for a peace deal before he leaves office next January - including the contours of a Palestinian state - Bush has stepped up his hands-on diplomacy.

His trip runs from May 13 to 18.

Bush has no plans to hold talks in the West Bank this time, but will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt.

In Israel, Bush will meet with President Shimon Peres and Olmert and speak to the Knesset, which will be a first for Bush. He will honor "close ties over the past six decades" with Israel, White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

"The president is going to go there to celebrate, but also to continue to push on the peace process," Perino said.

In Saudi Arabia, Bush will meet with King Abdullah. And in Egypt, Bush will visit Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Abbas.

Perino said there was nothing to read into the fact that Bush is not visiting the West Bank, or planning a joint meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

She said Bush just met with Abbas at the White House last week, and has also sent high-level envoys, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as a sign of commitment to the Palestinian people and their quest for a state of their own.

Details about the meetings in Egypt are still coming together, she said.

"As you know, in the Middle East, when you're talking about all of those issues, things are very dynamic and fluid," Perino told reporters. "And we hope that they continue to push in the right direction. But we're going to have to push them faster than they've been going."

Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have complained that the other side has not abided by the terms of the US-endorsed "road map" to peace.

It calls for Israel to halt settlement construction and take down unauthorized outposts built after March 2001, and for Palestinians to dismantle violent groups.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017