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Bush holds meetings with Mideast leaders

In separate meetings with Middle East leaders Thursday, President Bush applauded Lebanon's efforts to forge a national reconciliation and told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the administration has not given up hope on an agreement to create a Palestinian state.

“I appreciate your determination and your desire to have a Palestinian state,” Bush told Abbas in front of reporters before an Oval Office meeting. “I share that desire with you. It's not easy.”

Bush said the administration will continue to work with Palestinian authorities on security matters and on helping to coordinate international economic assistance.

“As you know, I've got four more months left in office and I'm hopeful that the vision that you and I have worked on can come to pass,” he added.

Abbas said he was thankful for U.S. support.

“Hope remains,” Abbas said. “We cannot live without hope.”

According to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who attended the meeting, Abbas said Palestinians are seeking “a comprehensive agreement on all the issues, without any exception. Either there will be an agreement on all the issues or there will be no agreement.”

Mideast peace talks were relaunched at a U.S.-hosted summit last November, and with prodding from the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians set a year-end target for reaching a final peace accord that would end six decades of hostilities.

Despite months of negotiations, there have been no apparent breakthroughs, and the sides remain at odds over key issues like the final borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the competing claims to Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.

In an earlier meeting Thursday, Bush lauded efforts by Lebanon's new president to promote reconciliation in a country the U.S. considers key to combating extremism in the Middle East.

In remarks at the outset of the Oval Office meeting with President Michel Suleiman, Bush said he has watched carefully the public statements that Suleiman has made since taking office in May.

“Your statements impressed me and we're most impressed by the national dialogue that you're holding in an attempt to seek reconciliation,” Bush said. “The United States is proud to stand by your side. Our mission is your mission: a country that is strong and capable, a country where people can make a peace.”

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