Palestinian Officials: Abbas to Visit Washington
JERUSALEM – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) will meet with President Bush (search) for the first time on May 26, Palestinian officials announced Saturday.
The trip to Washington, starting May 24, will be Abbas' first visit to the United States since his January election. The leaders are expected to focus on Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the future of the long-stalled "road map" peace plan.
The White House on Saturday declined to comment on the reported meeting.
Abbas is expecting rewards from Bush for his recent efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority (search) and its delinquent security forces. He will also seek U.S. financial support to boost the ailing Palestinian economy.
According to the statement issued Saturday by the Palestinian foreign ministry, Abbas will call for Bush to pressure Israel to implement its road map obligations, including a total freeze on settlement activity and the immediate dismantling of unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank.
Israel has also accused the Palestinians of failing to meet their initial obligations, including a crackdown on militant groups. An issue of concern for the Palestinians is Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, particularly Israel's plan to build some 3,500 new homes in Maaleh Adumim, the West Bank's largest settlement.
During Sharon's April visit to the United States, Bush warned Israel against the planned settlement expansion, but Sharon pledged to follow through on the construction.