ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – President Bush urged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Wednesday to bring an end to suicide bombings and other needless violence in the Middle East.
Bush also called on Israel to show restraint and said he is confident the leadership on both sides can prevent a wider conflict in the region.
"The parties must — must — make up their mind that peace is preferable to war," Bush said. "The suicide bombings have increased; there's too many of them." Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "must do everything in his power to discourage the suicide bombers," the president said.
Bush said the United States is not only engaged in urgent conversations with the Palestinians and Israelis but also is talking to Israel's neighbors and others able to influence decisions throughout the Middle East.
The president said Arafat must do everything possible to stop the violence by Palestinians and "the Israelis must show restraint in their response."
He discussed the Middle East immediately after reading a children's book to a second-grade class at Griegos Elementary School in a largely Hispanic Albuquerque neighborhood.
At the school, Bush renewed his call to improve education for all children, outlining his plan to hold schools accountable through testing.
"I want you to understand I said every child," Bush told about 150 people in the school gymnasium during a back-to-school ceremony. "I didn't say just a handful of children, I didn't say only those whose parents may make a certain income, I mean every single child."
Bush praised Griegos, which last year was one of 37 New Mexico schools to receive the highest rating under the state Education Department's new accountability system, despite a poverty rate of 66 percent.
Bush, courting the Hispanic vote in this swing state, was also giving a speech to the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. He was to end his two-day trip away from his Texas ranch with a fund-raising dinner for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
The president came to Albuquerque from Denver Wednesday. Two likely GOP candidates in Colorado, Gov. Bill Owens and Sen. Wayne Allard, got the full Bush treatment at a $1.4 million Denver fund-raising dinner Tuesday night.
Bush's voice got louder, his style more impassioned, as he praised the records of the two Republicans, defended his programs, denounced budget busters in Congress and said Allard's re-election is vital if the GOP is to win back the Senate from the Democrats who control it by a single vote.
"I need somebody I can count on in the United States Senate," Bush said.
The president defended his education goals, his version of a patients' bill of rights, his missile-defense initiative and his plans to drill for oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He said again that drilling can be accomplished "without destroying the precious environment."
Bush was at his most emphatic when he disputed people who contend that his $1.35 trillion tax cut will cause a new series of yearly budget deficits.
"What causes a deficit is too much spending," Bush said. "If they try to bust the budget you'll have a president who will veto those budget busting bills. I expect members of both parties to adhere to my budget."
After two days away from home, Bush returns to Texas late Wednesday to continue his monthlong vacation at his ranch near the tiny town of Crawford.
But he also plans a few more August trips to keep his proposals and ideas before the public.
With camera crews at work, Bush began his day in Colorado by helping thin brush in a fire prone forest in Rocky Mountain National Park. He brought the day to a close at a baseball field, watching the Colorado Rockies play the Atlanta Braves.