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Bush heads to Mideast to talk peace, oil

  • Story Highlights
  • Bush arrives in Israel on Wednesday to meet with top officials, address parliament
  • Next stop: oil-rich Saudi Arabia, for meeting with King Abdullah
  • He'll also meet with Egyptian president, Jordan's king, Palestinian Authority president
  • Top items on trip agenda: efforts for Mideast peace, soaring oil prices
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush leaves for the Middle East on Tuesday to celebrate the United States' ties with its top allies in the region -- Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

President Bush, from left, Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert meet in Annapolis, Maryland, in November.

During talks with the leaders of those countries, Bush is expected to address two major topics: regional security and rising oil prices.

The trip comes as diplomats work to help Israel and the Palestinians move toward a peace agreement. It also comes amid a new outbreak of violence in Lebanon, whose Western-backed government faces a renewed revolt from Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, Iraq remains mired in war and skyrocketing oil prices continue to raise concerns across the globe.

Bush will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, where he will meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and address Israel's parliament, the Knesset, according to the White House. Read more about leaders Bush will meet on trip »

"The president's visit to Israel will celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary and our close ties over the past six decades," the White House said.

He then will travel to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and meet with King Abdullah.

"His visit to Saudi Arabia will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the formal establishment of U.S.-Saudi relations," the White House said.

In Egypt, Bush will meet with President Hosni Mubarak.

While there, he will also meet with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Bush is to deliver remarks at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, the final day of his trip.

Bush -- who visited the Middle East for the first time as U.S. president in January -- will be accompanied by his wife, Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

During his initial visit to the region four months ago, Bush was bullish about the prospects for a Mideast peace deal.

"I believe it's possible, not only possible, I believe that it is going to happen, that there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office, that's what I believe," Bush said at a news conference in January in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

But four months later, there's little progress and Bush's language has shifted from saying it "will" happen to it "might" happen. He blames the lack of progress on the Palestinian faction Hamas, which controls Gaza.

"I'm still hopeful we'll get an agreement by the end of my presidency," Bush said in late April. "But Hamas is -- look, when you're Israel and you've got people lobbing rockets into your country, you're going to take care of business."

Egypt has been trying to negotiate an agreement between Israel and Gaza's Hamas leaders to end the incessant rocket attacks on Israel and the Israeli military crackdown on the Palestinian territory.

The Gaza-Israel violence threatens the broader peace deal launched at a November summit in Annapolis, Maryland.

Olmert and Abbas agreed to work toward a peace deal by the end of the year and meet every two weeks to further that goal. But there is little fruit coming from those biweekly meetings, and hopes are fading for a peace deal by 2009.

"It's kind of a gloomy mood, you might say, in the region," said Scott Lasensky, a Middle East analyst for the United States Institute of Peace. "Time is running out."

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders, according to Lasensky, are "totally sidelined on the core issues that divide them -- Jerusalem settlements, where the borders would be, what the nature of a settlement would look like."

Another threat to a peace deal is the leaders' tenuous grips on power.

Nearly a year after Hamas seized control of Gaza, Abbas has made no inroads in establishing any power base for his Fatah-led government outside the West Bank.

Olmert, who already suffers from dismal approval ratings, is under investigation for fraud. Olmert told reporters last week that he has never taken a bribe, but vowed to resign if he is indicted.


And Bush leaves office in less than a year, although he has made it a top priority to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of his final term.

"They each have weak coalitions at home and neither side seems to be willing to take the kind of risks and talk honestly to their people about the concessions that will have to be made," Lasensky said.

CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report.

All About George W. BushIsraelEgyptSaudi ArabiaPalestinian Politics

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