Bush's Mideast Visit 'Ceremonial'

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - U.S. President George W. Bush's upcoming five-day visit to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the same countries he visited in January, has been billed as ceremonial rather than substantive.

On Wednesday, Stephen Bradley, Bush's national security advisor, said the President will not hold a joint session with Israel and the Palestinians while in Israel.

"This did not seem the time for a big, high-level, three-way event," Hadley told the media. "It just doesn't feel right as the best way to advance the negotiation," he said.

"We are, in some sense, all over this process, both in Israel and in terms of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]," Hadley told reporters.

"And I think it just made sense in terms of the President's scheduling and given the messages and themes we wanted to strike, this seemed a good way to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish with the trip," he said.

In fact, meetings with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, where Bush will also meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Jordan's King Abdullah, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and unnamed Iraqi leaders.

In Jerusalem, Bush will hold meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres and attend a conference and reception marking Israel's 60th anniversary. He will also address the Knesset.

During an overnight stay at Saudi King Abdullah's horse farm outside Riyadh, Hadley said the President will once again ask for increased oil production to alleviate soaring gasoline prices in the US, a request that's been ignored in the past.

While OPEC nations are producing just over 8.5 million barrels a day, they could produce as much as 11 million barrels a day.

"There are developments in terms of the world [and] the US economy in terms of its prospects and strengths," Hadley said.

According to Hadley, the President will again tell Saudi's monarch that for its own best interests, Arab oil suppliers should take the economic health of their customers into account.

Source: The Associated Press

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