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Bush Sees Bond With Saudi Prince

President Bush said Thursday that he and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had forged a "strong personal bond" in five hours of talks that would keep Mideast tensions from threatening their nations' 70-year alliance.

The president's upbeat assessment after their meeting at his Texas ranch contrasted with recent Saudi complaints that the Bush administration's support of Israel had damaged prospects for Mideast peace and soured relations with the Arab world.

Bush took a more personal view after Abdullah left his ranch.

"One of the really positive things out of this meeting is the fact the crown prince and I established a strong personal bond," Bush said. "We've spent a lot of time alone discussing our respective visions, talking about our families" and wandering the 1,600 acres of the president's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Bush's pickup truck.

The crown prince left without speaking to reporters.

"I'm convinced that the stronger our personal bond is, the more likely those relations between our countries will be strong," Bush said.

The president spoke after bidding farewell to the Saudi leader, who had come bearing a warning to Bush that relations could be damaged by Bush's seemingly unconditional support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and by U.S. offensives against Palestinians.

Bush said he assured Abdullah he was committed to seeing Israeli troops withdrawn from Palestinian areas.

"I made it clear to him I expected Israel to withdraw. ... I expect them to be finished," Bush said.

In return, Bush said he was grateful for Abdullah's "assurance that Saudi Arabia condemns terror" and that it will not support any broadening of Iraq's oil embargo to include other angry Arab states.

"Saudi Arabia made it clear and made it clear publicly that they will not use oil as a weapon and I appreciate that, respect that and expect that to be the case," Bush said.

The two leaders met inside Bush's ranch home, talked over lunch and then set out in his pickup truck to explore the property's wooded canyons dotted with Texas bluebonnets and wild pink poppies.

Given rising U.S.-Saudi tensions, White House officials had made contingency plans for the planned three-hour visit to be cut short. Instead, the crown prince lingered more than two hours over schedule.

Bush said he took special pleasure in showing Abdullah favorite spots on his ranch. "We saw a wild turkey, which was good," Bush said.

The Israeli-Palestinian crisis dominated the discussion in Bush's first face-to-face meeting with Abdullah.

"There is a shared vision," the president said, adding that they discussed next steps in implementing a Saudi peace plan championed by Abdullah and endorsed by the Arab league.

Bush called that plan "a breakthrough moment" in the Mideast crisis.

The president, wearing a business suit and cowboy boots, welcomed Abdullah, who wore a flowing brown robe, with a long handshake and quiet exchange of pleasantries before showing him inside for the talks.