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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Bush Phones Mideast Leaders to Encourage Acceptance of Roadmap

Aired May 20, 2003 - 20:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER: To the Middle East right now. President Bush talking to leaders in the region trying to put an end to the latest wave of terror attacks there. Mr. Bush, earlier today, telephoned the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas for the first time. And he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as well.
Kelly Wallace live in the in Afula, the same location where we talked to you last night. Kelly, good evening there.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bill. Actually joining you from Jerusalem this evening.

But this was a key move by U.S. President Bush coming at a critical time. Many people believe it is critical now for the success of that roadmap, and also the success of the Palestinian prime minister and his leadership.

So the president getting on the phone and talking with the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. We are told he urged him to crack down on these radical Palestinian groups. And we are also told that Mahmoud Abbas urged the president to put pressure on Israel to go ahead and accept and implement that Mideast roadmap.

Also the president speaking with Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister who was supposed to be at the White House on this very day but canceled his trip due to the recent wave of suicide bombings. We are told in that call the prime minister said that he wants to move forward. But the only way to move forward, he said, is for terror to be defeated.

And, Bill, we are told that Prime Minister Sharon has sent one of his top advisers to Washington this evening to go ahead and continue working with the administration in talking about more than a dozen changes to that road map Israel wants to make -- Bill.

HEMMER: Kelly, I think at some point we're all been told that Ariel Sharon will meet with the president in Washington at some point and date to be named later.

The big meeting, though, is when Mahmoud Abbas meets with President Bush. The White House has said they will sit down with him as opposed to Yasser Arafat in the past. Is there any movement, any talk toward the potential for that meeting tonight?

WALLACE: Doesn't appear that there's been any formal invitation extended or any formal date set. The White House knows Mahmoud Abbas has a lot on his hands right now. And certainly a main goal for him is trying to deliver for the Palestinian people, trying to get some concessions from the Israelis, trying to bolster his standing a little bit before he travels to Washington.

Because, Bill, many Palestinians are somewhat skeptical of Mahmoud Abbas. They believe perhaps he is a tool of the American and the Israeli administration. So there's some concern that Mahmoud Abbas is strong enough and delivering enough before he possibly makes that trip to Washington -- Bill.

HEMMER: Kelly Wallace in Jerusalem tonight. Thank you, Kelly.

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