Bush raps bombing as he prepares plan

Steve Holland,WASHINGTON, Reuters

U.S. President George W. Bush condemned a new Palestinian suicide bombing on Tuesday as he prepared to lay out a framework this week on how to create an independent Palestinian state.

Bush’s vision, which could include a recommendation for a provisional Palestinian state with temporary borders and limited sovereignty, is expected to be announced by the end of the week.

The White House ruled out a speech on Tuesday.

But even as the president worked on the details of his plan, another suicide bomber struck in Jerusalem, killing at least 19 people on a crowded bus, police said. As many as 50 others were reported injured in the attack claimed by the militant Islamic Hamas group.

“The president condemns this act of terror in the strongest possible terms,” White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said. “These terrorists who kill innocent men, women and children are enemies of peace and the world must condemn terrorism and stand together against terror.”

He said the timing of Bush’s speech was not affected by the bombing.

Bush touched on the topic only briefly, telling an audience at the Housing and Urban Development Department: “We believe in peace in the Middle East. We’re going to be steadfast in a vision that rejects terror and killing, and honors peace and hope.” Bush is expected to announce the outline of a plan for an independent Palestinian state and a Middle East peace conference.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who visited the region in April, is likely to be sent back to the region to help organize a peace conference that could be held in September.

The London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat said Bush’s proposal, as described to Egypt, included “a sovereign independent Palestinian state in areas A, currently under Palestinian Authority (PA) control and B, under PA civil control and Israeli security control.” Areas A and B cover around 40 percent of the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians want the West Bank — including East Jerusalem — in a future state.

“The state will have a seat at the United Nations and have global recognition, and it will be the negotiating party (in talks with Israel),” the newspaper said.

Whether Bush would lay out a specific timetable for an independent state of Palestine remained unclear.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who spoke to Bush by phone on Sunday, said on Monday a timetable was needed and that he hoped it would be realized by the end of Bush’s first term, which ends in January 2005.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who met Bush at the White House a week ago, said on Sunday “the conditions are not ripe” for the establishment of any kind of Palestinian state.

In outlining a path for development of a Palestinian state, however, Bush was likely to recommend moving beyond Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.