U.S. Condemns Jerusalem Bombings

Published May 18, 2003

| Associated Press

The United States condemned Sunday's homicide bombing in Jerusalem that led Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) to postpone a White House meeting with President Bush.

"We remain ready to welcome the prime minister to the White House," Ashley Snee, a presidential spokeswoman, said Sunday. No new date was set for Sharon's visit.

"We condemn these acts of terror and send condolences to the families of the victims," Snee said.

A homicide bomber killed seven passengers on a Jerusalem (search) bus, and a second bomber blew himself up on the city's outskirts, police said.

Also Sunday, Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip shot and killed an 18-year-old Palestinian, Israeli and Palestinian security forces said.

The homicide attacks, which wounded at least 20 people, came just hours after the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in nearly three years, between Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (search). The leaders failed to narrow their differences over a proposal to bring peace to the region.

A top Republican senator said Bush should step up his involvement in the search for Middle East peace, further complicated by the renewed violence.

"The president is going to have to personally get involved in this," said Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"We're meandering around and continuing to do that in this cul-de-sac of perpetuation of violence, working our way around in circles and circles.

"And somehow we're going to have to get ahold of this to at least establish a vehicle, a commitment from all sides, that there is a way out of this cul-de-sac," Hagel told Fox News Sunday.

"It's difficult, it's complicated, it's going to take time," Hagel said. "We cannot put too high expectations on the front end of this, but we have to put something together here."

Abbas, after meeting last weekend with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Jericho, accepted the "road map" for peacemaking with Israel that is to lead to Palestinian statehood by 2005. The plan would end 31 months of conflict, commit both sides to ending violence and freeze construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Dozens of smaller Israeli settlements would be dismantled.

Sharon, who saw Powell last week in Jerusalem, did not explicitly accept the peace plan, which the United States developed with the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. But he agreed to ease travel restrictions on Palestinian workers and to free dozens of Palestinian prisoners.

Sharon had said he wanted to discuss with Bush Israel's numerous reservations about the "road map." His principal objection is that it would not require the Palestinians end all violence before Israeli's commitments would kick in.

After his talks in the region, Powell said he was looking for Bush to break the stalemate in his meeting with Sharon. "We can't miss this moment of opportunity," Powell said.

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