Egypt, US back Israeli pullout

The US president met the Egyptian president in Texas for talks on Monday as the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip continued – Israeli troops killed two Hamas militants apparently planning a raid on a nearby Jewish settlement.

Mr Mubarak said a pullout must be linked to the internationally brokered, US-backed “road map” or “it will not be accepted by the public opinion in the area”.

“So the withdrawal from Gaza, if it is a part from the road map, I think it will be very highly appreciated,” said Mr Mubarak, days before Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to present the plan to Mr Bush in Washington.

Mr Bush said any pullout would be a “positive development”.

He added: “We both are in agreement that if Israel makes the decision to withdraw, it doesn’t replace the road map. It is a part of the road map, so that we can continue progress toward the two-state solution.”

Mr Bush reaffirmed his support for the stalled blueprint, despite failures to implement the measures it calls for ahead of the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

He said: “The point is the decision (by Israel to withdraw) doesn’t replace the path toward the establishment of a Palestinian state that’ll provide hope for the Palestinian people.”

However, the US President warned “there will never be a Palestinian state, in my judgment, if terrorists are willing to kill. And so, the first step we’ve all got to do is to work on the mutual security concerns of the region.”

Amid active diplomatic contacts between the United States and Israel on the plan, Bush withheld his formal endorsement, saying “let’s not prejudge what Prime Minister Sharon is going to tell me.”

Mr Mubarak, whose country gets more US aid than any other except Israel, said Cairo “could help a lot in Gaza by training the police, by giving them advice, by sending in some groups to make plans for them how to work”.

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