WACO, Texas -- Officially, President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah are meeting to advance the Mideast peace process. But a growing number of conflicts, and Bush's strong support for Israel, threaten to overshadow the talks at the president's ranch.
It was Abdullah who gave momentum earlier this year to an initiative meant to quell Mideast violence by offering peace and full recognition to Israel in exchange for the territory Jordan and Syria lost in the 1967 war.
But the crown prince was delivering a warning to Bush that America's backing of Israel was damaging prospects for peace.
Arab leaders said the discussions could determine the Arabs nations' next moves. The meeting is "important, revealing of American stances, and will clarify a lot of issues and will be the basis for the Arabs' future steps," Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, said Thursday in Cairo.
Abdullah's plan also includes the creation of a Palestinian state, for which Bush has voiced support. Also under review is an international conference on Mideast peacemaking. Bush so far has been noncommittal.
"The main advice will be that America must be engaged, America must restrain (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, America must put the peace process back in its proper track because American interests and American credibility and the credibility and interests of Americas' friends and allies in the region are suffering tremendously as a consequence," Adel Al-Jubeir, the crown prince's foreign policy adviser, said this week on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."
Specifically, Abdullah in his meeting Thursday with Bush was expected to urge the president to pressure Israel to free Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from virtual house arrest.
In a fresh reminder of the tension, more than 100 Saudi intellectuals said over the weekend that the American role in the Israeli military operation against the Palestinians was "shameful" and that the "Israeli massacres do not differ in shape or form from what the Nazis did."
Throwing Bush's words back at him, they said: "We consider the United States and the current American administration the nurturer of international terrorism with distinction and it, along with Israel, form the axis of terrorism and evil in the world."
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said the intellectuals tapped into a prevailing view in his country. "It reflects the frustration that exists there," he said Wednesday on "The CBS Evening News."
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