WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon headed into his latest Mideast talks with President Bush on Monday, the White House defended Israel's latest assault on the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank.
"Our understanding is that the Israeli operation is limited in duration and it is to go after specific terrorists. And given that understanding, the United Stteas has said before that Israel has a right to defend itself," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters as the two leaders prepared to meet for the sixth time in the Oval Office.
"The United States will be closely monitoring what Israel is doing and the United States again reminds Israel about the importance of remembering the repercussions of whatever action Israel takes today impacting the broader goals of achieving peace tomorrow," Fleischer added.
Sharon is determined to leave his imprint on evolving U.S. plans for Mideast peace expected to be announced in a few weeks. The prime minister is counseling a gradual approach in which substantive talks do not begin until the Palestinians halt attacks on Israelis, where the pace of negotiations is linked to continued calm and the most intractable disputes between the two sides are put on the back burner.
The Palestinians and most Arab countries want a timeline for negotiations and a pre-stated date for Palestinian statehood.
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