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Churches praise Bush peace push, pan arms deal


A coalition of mainstream churches wrote to President Bush to praise his push for Israeli-Palestinian peace while faulting its arms sales component.

“Churches for Middle East Peace commends you for lifting hopes among all who long for Israeli- Palestinian peace – and a comprehensive regional agreement – with your announcement on July 16th of an international meeting this fall,” the coalition of Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mennonite and Quaker groups said in a letter sent Thursday. “Real progress toward a viable Palestinian state would bolster moderation among Palestinians, help Israel gain security and transform America’s standing in the region.”

The letter decried Bush’s promise of an arms sale to Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf neighbors, reportedly worth $20 billion, and his pledge to increase military assistance to Israel from $2.4 billion to $3 billion annually and to maintain $1.3 billion in annual defense aid for Egypt. The Bush administration argues that bolstering a united front against Iran will reinforce moderates seeking peace.

“This influx of arms is more likely to embolden those Iranians who want to pursue nuclear weapons than to help recipient states counter the influence of Iran and militant groups,” the letter said.

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