NEW YORK -- President Bush yesterday called embattled Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas a ``man of courage" for trying to revive Mideast peace talks despite a continued political stalemate with Hamas militants.
On the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting, Bush tried to breathe new life into negotiations to resolve the long-running conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
``In order to achieve this vision, there must be leaders willing to speak out and act on behalf of people who yearn for peace, and you are such a leader, Mr. President," Bush said after his 40-minute meeting with Abbas at a New York hotel. ``I can't thank you enough for the courage you have shown."
Israelis officials say they want to reopen a serious dialogue with Abbas and work with him to establish a Palestinian state. But Abbas has been in a weakened position since January when Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, won the Palestinian elections.
Abbas retains his position as president but he is caught between Hamas and the West, which considers Hamas a terrorist group and refuses to underwrite it with vital international aid. Abbas has tried to persuade Hamas leaders to moderate their anti-Israel policies and join with his Fatah Party in a coalition government, but the United States and Israel are leery of the plan.
``We look forward to your support and your help and your aid because we are in dire need for your help and support," Abbas said to an audience that included Bush and TV viewers. ``Mr. President, we will always be faithful and truthful to peace and we will not disappoint you."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to travel to friendly Mideast nations next month, her first visit since a UN-brokered cease-fire ended the monthlong cross-border war in Lebanon. She met with diplomats from moderate Arab nations yesterday at the UN.