WASHINGTON – President Bush has invited Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to the White House in an effort to give a kick to Mideast peace talks, the White House said Thursday.
The plan, which envisions talks around the beginning of May, was revealed to to reporters on Air Force One by National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, who was accompanying Bush on a flight to Dayton, Ohio.
"Details are still being worked out," said Johndroe, who added that the talks would be part of a continuing effort "to work with the Palestinians and the Israelis as well as other countries in the region in realizing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel."
Vice President Dick Cheney returned from the region this week. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaves on Friday for the region, and Bush is ticketed to go to the Mideast in May. Johndroe, however, said that Bush's invitation was not spurred by Cheney's visit. "This is not the result of one specific meeting," the spokesman said, "but just part of the continuing process that the president has committed to."
Bush, who has said he believes a peace agreement can be struck before he leaves office next January, called Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak Thursday morning to express regret over a recent naval shooting incident in Egypt and promised to investigate, Johndroe told reporters.
"President Bush expressed his deep regret and sympathies for the incident in the Suez Canal and said the United States will fully investigate this," Johndroe said.