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Transcript: Bush comments on Middle East

U.S. President George W. Bush commented on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East Monday. CNN joined his comments in progress

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will never get to Mitchell until the leadership works to reduce and stop violence. These terrorists acts, which are despicable, will prevent us from ever getting into the Mitchell process.

My administration has been calling upon all the leaders in the -- in the Middle East to do everything they can to stop the violence, to tell the different parties involved that peace will never happen. And so long as terrorist activities continue, it will be impossible to get into Mitchell or any other discussion about peace under the threat of terrorism.

And Secretary Powell was in touch with Mr. Arafat and Mr. Sharon. We delivered that message consistently.

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BUSH: Well, Europe and the modern Arab nations must join with us to continue to send a consistent message that there will be no peace unless we break this cycle of violence. And the United States is doing everything in our power to convince the parties. But I want to remind people, it -- there must be the will. The people in the area must make the conscious decision to stop terrorism. And we're going to continue.

QUESTION: But can the Israelis continue to show moderate restraint or...

BUSH: I appreciate the fact that they do show a moderate restraint. Sometimes they haven't and sometimes they have. But what's important is that we say to all the parties that if there's a desire for peace -- or at least the discussion of peace or the desire to get into Mitchell, the first thing that must happen is that we must stop violence. And...

QUESTION: But do you have -- do you have confidence in Arafat that he can stop the terrorist acts? BUSH: I think he can do a lot more to be convincing the people on the street to stop these acts of terrorism and the acts of violence. I have said in the Oval Office it is very important for Mr. Arafat to show 100 percent effort, to do everything he can to convince the different parties on the West Bank and in Gaza to stop the violence.

And we recognize that there could be isolated incidences of terror. But these are not isolated. This is a continuing terrorist campaign.

QUESTION: What do mean by Arafat (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: And we've got to stop the violence. I will invite the respective parties to come and see me at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Sir, what about your response to people who say that your administration is not doing enough to stop the escalation of violence there?

BUSH: We have been engaged in the Middle East ever since I got sworn in. Ours is the administration that sent George Tenet to the Middle East to lay out a platform for discussions amongst security forces to bring peace to the region.

We wholeheartedly endorse the Mitchell report. We have spent, on a near-daily basis, talking to the different parties, urging them, because there's no -- there's nothing that an administration can do if there's no will for peace. And we're obviously working with the leaders to try to convince them to take the necessary steps, to send a signal to the people on the streets that peace -- we want peace. We want at least discussions towards peace, if not on the final agreement.

We've got a long way to go; I recognize that. And it's so important for there to be the will, the desire. It requires two parties to make the conscious decision that we're going to do everything we can to stop terrorism. And our administration and my government is working hard to send that message. We're on the phone almost on a daily basis to the respective parties.


QUESTION: Do you see the will on either side, sir?

BUSH: Well, sometimes we see the will on the either side. And sometimes that cycle overcomes the will. There's a lot of people in the Middle East who are desirous to get into the Mitchell process.

But first things first. These terrorists acts and the responses have got to end in order for us to get the framework, the groundwork -- not framework -- the groundwork to discuss a framework for peace, to lay the --all right.

QUESTION: Have you any made any calls yourself, sir?

BUSH: I have made a lot of calls over -- you mean, the last couple of days? No, I haven't, not over the last couple of days.

• Israel Defense Force

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