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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Bush Heads to Middle East

Aired May 28, 2003 - 19:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush heads to the Middle East next week. Once there, he is going to take part in a three-way summit with Israeli as well as Palestinian leaders.
With more details on the summit planned to take place in Jordan, Chris Burns is live at the White House right now.

Now Chris, given that Iraq is not nearly settled and rhetoric is heating up with Iran, why this trip? Why now?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this because the White House sees this as a way to seize the moment right now. You have a number of changes in the Middle East. You have a new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. Saddam Hussein has been toppled. who the Israelis saw as a serious threat. The Israelis have just espoused and embraced that road map for peace the president has, a road map for a Palestinian state and an independent Palestinian state by the year 2005.

So the White House sees this as a way to seize the moment and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said earlier today that the time is right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think that the president believes that the reason that this is the time to go is that the Arab leaders with whom he will meet are all telling him that this is a historic opportunity for peace. And that historic opportunity for peace is only going to be delivered if there is on the part of all parties, a desire to take up their responsibilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNS: So as the president wraps up his G-8 summit meeting in Europe, he's going to go on to Egypt, where he will meet with Arab leaders, hoping to get their blessing for moving ahead. That will on June 3.

On June 4 he goes on to Jordan where he will meet -- There will that first three-way meeting between the president and the two Israeli and the Palestinian prime minister. That will be the first face-to- face they've had together. Very, very key meeting.

And the White House cautioning, however, that conditions may change in which they may not go ahead with that meeting. They want to see if both sides are willing to go ahead with the first steps on this road map which means the Israelis would have to start to lift some of the restrictions on the Palestinians. The Palestinians have to take some serious measures toward reigning in the militants.

Then the president does go on to Doha, to Qatar, where there is the U.S. Central Command. He will be congratulating and thanking the U.S. forces in toppling Saddam Hussein -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Chris, thanks for the update from the White House tonight. Appreciate it.

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