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Mideast Policy Won’t Change, President Says

From Associated Press

President Bush said today that the United States will not relax its policy on the Middle East to accommodate political turmoil in Israel, a nation he said is beset by “great difficulties.”

Bush, talking with reporters on Air Force One as he flew here from Hungary, said Israel should go forward with elections among Palestinians in the occupied territories as a step toward peace.

And he said the United States will not change its policy of opposing Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. The U.S. view is that such settlements are obstacles to peace.

Bush’s comments reflected the strain in U.S.-Israeli relations caused by the July 5 decision by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s right-wing Likud Party to harden its stand on conditions for Middle East peace negotiations.

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At a press conference in Paris, Brent Scowcroft, the President’s national security adviser, drew a distinction between the decision of the Likud Party and the Israeli government. “What Likud does is a party matter and what we deal with is the Israeli government,” he said.

Scowcroft said the purpose of a planned visit to Israel by a U.S. delegation was “just to ascertain in the wake of the Likud conference whether or not there has been a change in Israeli government policy.”

Bush said the delegation would not be part of any high-level diplomacy.


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