Bush: 'I strongly support a Palestinian state'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - In a meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Monday in New York, U.S. President George Bush restated his firm support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"I strongly support the creation of a Palestinian state," said America's president. "I believe it is in the interests of the Palestinian people. I believe it is in the interests of Israel to have a democracy living side-by-side - democracies living side-by-side in peace," he said.

"The United States of America will work as hard as we possibly can to help you achieve the vision of a Palestinian democracy at peace with Israel," he told the PA chairman.

"I appreciate the fact that you're fighting the extremists who don't share the same kind of view," Bush said.

Bush did not mention his upcoming Middle East peace conference, which Abbas and Fayyad have threatened to boycott if their demands for "issues of substance" aren't met.

"We have faith and trust," Abbas responded. "We believe very strongly in your vision of establishing a Palestinian, independent, viable state," he said.

"I also take this opportunity to reaffirm that we strongly believe in the [U.S.-backed] road map, which includes your vision, Mr. President, as well as the Arab initiative. Collectively, together, I believe they represent a strong framework that would allow us and help us to initiate the permanent status issues and reach an agreement on it," Abbas said.

Sources: YNet news service, The Jerusalem Post

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