White House invites Abbas

Same welcome not extended to Arafat

The Associated PressJanuary 11, 2005 

President Bush offered Monday to meet at the White House with newly elected Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, putting out a welcome mat that was never there for Yasser Arafat.

Bush also congratulated Abbas in a telephone call and said, according to a spokesman, that he envisioned "a day when he and president-elect Abbas and Israel's leaders could stand together and say, 'We have peace.' "

Final results released Monday showed Abbas winning 62.3 percent of the vote, said Hanna Nasser, head of the Central Election Commission. Abbas' main challenger, independent Mustafa Barghouti, won 19.8 percent. The remaining five candidates scored in the lower single digits.

Bush gave no sign that he was relenting in the demands he had made of Abbas' late predecessor: that the Palestinian leader fight terror against Israel and put together a strong security system to support that stance.

Bush extended an invitation for Abbas to visit the White House when Abbas "felt it was a good time to come," press secretary Scott McClellan said. They did not discuss specific dates.

An Abbas meeting with Bush at the White House would not be their first.

When Abbas was prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, before a falling out with Arafat, he visited the White House for a working lunch and news conference in July 2003. He also attended a summit with Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Aqaba, Jordan, that June.

Still in place after Sunday's election is the U.S.-backed "road map" for peace, which former American mediator Dennis B. Ross said could be a vehicle for progress if more of its principles were implemented.

These include Palestinian arrests of violent militants and the elimination of illegal Israeli outposts on the West Bank, Ross said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Bush, at the White House, said, "I think it's going to be very important for Israel to fulfill its obligation on the withdrawal from the territories that they have pledged to withdraw from.

"It is essential that Israel keep a vision of two states living side-by-side in peace, and that, as the Palestinians begin to develop the institutions of a state, that the Israel government support the development of those institutions," Bush said.

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