Egyptian President Endorses U.S. Hopes for Mideast Peace Treaty

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday endorsed U.S. hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan this year and said he will work hand in hand with the United States and other nations to make it happen.

President Bush, closing his eight-day trip to the Mideast, said "nations in the neighborhood" are willing to help Israelis and Palestinians reach a Mideast peace deal.

Bush said he'll remain engaged in Mideast peacemaking, and return to the region.

"I mean what I say," Bush declared.

Mubarak said he stressed in his talks with Bush that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is at the core of problems and turmoil in the Middle East. Bush has expressed a desire to reach an agreement before he leaves office in January 2009.

"I also said that I wish that he will reach a peace agreement before the end of his term," Mubarak said, through a translator.

"We are keen on supporting peace efforts," Mubarak said. "We are ready, hand-in-hand with the United States of America," and others to work for the "sake of a comprehensive and just peace, to put an end to this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to open new horizons for the Middle East for a more peaceful and secure future."

Standing alongside Mubarak, Bush urged greater political openness in Egypt, but did not directly criticize the Egyptian government for what the U.S. sees as a lack of political freedoms. Bush praised Egypt for taking some steps toward democratic reform, but said more was needed.

"I'm absolutely confident that people in the Middle East are working on building a society based on justice," Bush said.

Wrapping up his journey, which included a side trip to Baghdad by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush said the fragile Iraqi government was making progress on political reconciliation.

"The government isn't perfect, but nevertheless, progress is being made," he said.