Bush may visit Middle East
BEIT HANOUN: Israeli tanks forced the Palestinian prime minister to scrap a tour in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday amid reports that US President George W Bush may visit the Middle East to try to rescue a peace plan.
The cancellation of the trip to Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza was another setback to hopes that had been lifted by a New York Times report Mr Bush may take a more direct role in pushing the ‘roadmap’ for peace. The New York Times reported that Mr Bush was considering making his first trip to the Middle East as president in the next few weeks. A visit to Israel is unlikely, it said, citing unnamed administration officials. Officials told the Times the president Bush could meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Kuwait or Qatar following a meeting he is due to attend later this month in the French Alps.
The Times also said US officials were pressing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to remove some Jewish settlements recently established in Palestinian areas.
Fifteen tanks took up positions just inside Beit Hanoun and troops put up razor wire with a sign saying ‘Security zone, no entrance’ just before Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, was due to arrive. “Abu Mazen has cancelled the visit because of the Israeli tank raid in Beit Hanoun which has blocked the town entrance and the razing of land in Beit Hanoun this morning,” said Sufian Abu Zaida, a Palestinian Authority official. Mr Abbas had planned to talk to residents and inspect damage after an army raid into the town. “Arafat is at the top of the (Palestinian) Authority. He’s the man to whom we refer, regardless of the American or Israeli view of him,” Mr Abbas said. —AFP/Reuters
Israel key to world security: Rice
LAHORE: United States National Security Adviser Dr Condoleezza Rice has said that the “security of Israel is the key to security of the world.” In an exclusive interview with Israel’s daily Yediot Aharonot recently, Dr Rice said she felt “a deep bond to Israel.” Asked if her feelings toward Israel stem from her religious convictions, Dr Rice said, “That is a very deep question. I first visited Israel in 2000. I already then felt that I am returning home despite the fact that this was a place I never visited. I have a deep affinity with Israel. I have always admired the history of the State of Israel and the hardness and determination of the people that founded it.” —Daily Times Monitor