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Bush launches peace talks

President Bush formally launched Israel-Palestinian peace talks.

“We’ve come together this week because we share a common goal: two democratic states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security,” Bush said in raising a toast to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, at a U.S. State Department dinner Monday night. The talks move to Annapolis, Md., on Tuesday.

Bush emphasized the role Arab nations had to play in moving the reinvigorated talks forward. “Achieving this goal requires difficult compromises – and the Israelis and Palestinians have elected leaders committed to making them,” he said. “Achieving this goal requires neighbors committed to peace between Israel and a new Palestinian state – and I’m encouraged by the presence of so many here.”

Bush persuaded Saudi Arabia to send its foreign minister to the conference, a first for the oil rich state. Syria was also attending, despite its alliance with groups and nations that reject the renewed peace talks. A total of some 15 Arab nations are represented at the conference.

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