WASHINGTON – Leaders of Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups want to meet with President Bush to discuss a renewed role by the United States in Mideast peace initiatives.
With a newly elected Palestinian leadership and Israel's plans to withdraw from Gaza (search), the United States should take a higher profile role, said a public appeal to the president signed by the 35 religious leaders.
They were formally announcing their appeal at a news conference Thursday.
Mahmoud Abbas (search) won election Sunday as president of the Palestinian Authority, succeeding the late Yasser Arafat.
Coordinating with national religious leaders are leaders in more than a dozen cities. They include Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Hartford and New Haven, Conn., Baltimore, Charlotte and Durham, N.C., and Washington, D.C.
The leaders are asking that Bush:
— Appoint a special presidential envoy with a full-time commitment to the Mideast. The envoy would coordinate with the European Union, Russian Federation and the U.N. secretary-general to press for the plan signed by Israel and the Palestinians in June 2003. It has stalled, with each side blaming the other for violations of its provisions.
— Negotiate a timetable for specific steps to be taken by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government.
— Take the lead to mobilize increased international economic aid to build up the Palestinian Authority's ability to provide security, deliver humanitarian aid and ensure services the Palestinian people.
The group of religious leaders includes representatives from the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches; leaders of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and leaders of the Secretary-General of the Islamic Society of North America.