Washington — President Bush made a direct appeal Tuesday to new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to clamp down on terror attacks against Israel while also reassuring Abbas that the United States still intends to help create a Palestinian state in 2005.
The telephone call was Bush's first contact with Abbas, whose appointment followed a presidential boycott of Yasser Arafat and gave the Bush administration a way to try to bypass the longtime head of the Palestinian movement.
From the outset, Bush dismissed Arafat as both ineffective and involved in terror. While Bush never invited Arafat to the White House, Abbas is expected to be asked to see Bush in Washington in the months ahead.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that in their 15-minute conversation, Bush "reiterated his commitment to the security of the state of Israel" and said he looked forward to an eventual meeting with Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen.
"Abu Mazen told the president he was committed to reform, to peace and to ending all acts of terror," Fleischer said.
The president followed up by calling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who postponed a White House visit because of a rash of Palestinian terror attacks that killed 12 Israelis over 48 hours. The visit is expected to be rescheduled.
Bush balanced his appeal to Abbas for action against terror with an assurance he also wanted Israel to take "concrete steps" to come to terms with the Palestinians.
Even before the latest Palestinian suicide bombings, Sharon hesitated to accept a so-called road map to a settlement with the Palestinians.
"The president has always said that what's important is that 100 percent effort be made by the Palestinian Authority to fight the violence and to stop the terrorists," Fleischer said.
"The problem is, if you set a standard of 100 percent success, one or two individual terrorists then can hijack the peace process and put themselves in a position where they decide whether or not the peace process shall go forward or not, because they attack."