King Abdullah presses Bush on Middle East peace
Jordanian leader travels to Washington for "private" meeting with US president. Officials say king 'urged the US to intensify its efforts' to advance talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Abdullah says Israel must prove its earnestness by making goodwill gestures, dismantling settlements and easing restrictions on Palestinians
President George W. Bush on Tuesday met privately with Jordan's King Abdullah who pressed him to intensify US efforts to jump-start peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Bush and his wife, Laura, greeted Abdullah as he arrived Tuesday evening at the White House. The affair came with many trappings of an official dinner - a red-carpet welcome that included US Marines in dress uniform and the president and first lady standing on the North Portico steps to await the king's motorcade.
But all were dressed casually, and there were no public remarks other than Bush's quick ''Great to see you'' before they turned to go inside. White House aides said there would be no comment on the talks since the meal was deemed ''a private dinner.''
The meeting came a week after Bush unveiled plans for a Middle East peace conference aimed at breaking the stalemate plaguing the region for years. The meeting will be held later this year in the United States.
"King Abdullah urged the US to intensify its efforts in the coming weeks and months, particularly after Bush's recent call for an international meeting to advance the peace process," the Jordanian embassy said in a statement.
Bush has promoted a two-state solution but numerous issues and problems have stymied those efforts. And last month's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas militants has added new complications to peace plans.
"He remains committed to two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security," US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said after the dinner.
At the meeting, Abdullah also urged Israel to take steps to build confidence that it was serious about peace, including ending all settlement activities as well as relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians.
"The King said that a just and comprehensive peace to which the Arab people aspire should emanate from a solution that addresses all outstanding issues between the Palestinians and Israel, including final status issues," the statement said.
Roughly 18 months before Bush's term in office ends, US allies such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt want the US president to get more involved in helping broker peace in the Middle East.
At the same time, Bush has been pressing Abdullah as well as other Middle East leaders to continue supporting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah party after it lost control of Gaza to Hamas.
Some $190 million in US aid has been pledged for Abbas' government through the end of September.
Abdullah also spoke with Bush about the ongoing war in Iraq and bilateral economic relations, the embassy said.