Bush visit seen Jan. 9-11


President Bush will likely visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority Jan. 9-11.

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat provided the dates on Voice of Palestine radio Saturday. The trip would be the first for Bush as U.S. president.

Bush’s trip will be preceded by a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Dec. 19, Erekat said.

U.S. and Israeli officials had no immediate comment. Jerusalem sources confirmed the accuracy of the dates given by Erekat, though Bush’s itinerary could change.

On his visit, Bush is expected to encourage Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas to follow up last week’s Annapolis peace conference with serious negotiations.

Some have speculated also that Bush’s visit is timed to show solidarity with Israel after a U.S. intelligence report determined that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003, a view disputed by Jerusalem.

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