Bush Tries to Build Momentum for Meeting

The Associated Press
Friday, September 21, 2007; 5:33 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, in talks with world leaders next week, is seeking momentum for a U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference in the fall.

Bush spends three days in New York around the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, where he will deliver an address on Tuesday.

The president is also advancing his international agenda on the sidelines, in one-on-one meetings at his hotel with the leaders of Iraq, Afghanistan, Brazil and others. He begins Monday with a joint discussion with the leaders from the Palestinians' moderate, West Bank-based government, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Bush also will meet Monday with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who is the international community's Mideast envoy. Blair just completed his first extended stay in the region since assuming the new role.

The president called in July for a conference to re-energize the stalled search for a peace deal to end the six-decade-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conference is expected in November or December in the U.S., but the specific agenda remains uncertain. Palestinians want it to produce an outline for a peace deal, while Israelis want more vague declarations.

Michael Kozak, the National Security Council's senior director on international organizations, said the president's New York meetings are part of an administration effort "to build up to" the conference.

Also, Bush will discuss the intense effort by the U.S. and other countries to strengthen Palestinian institutions, the mission assigned to Blair by the so-called quartet of Mideast mediators _ the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the U.N., Kozak said. This effort has taken on particular importance since Hamas violently seized control of the coastal Gaza Strip in June.

Another focus for Bush next week is climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is holding an all-day "climate summit" on Monday. Bush is attending only Ban's dinner on Monday night, and has organized a separate climate change meeting at the end of the week in Washington for a select group of 17 industrial and developing nations.

The U.S. rejects mandatory obligations to reduce emissions, favoring voluntary reductions instead and insisting upon the participation of developing countries that are big energy guzzlers.

On Tuesday, Bush is sitting down with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid a dispute about a U.S. security company accused in a Baghdad shooting on Sunday that left 11 civilians dead.

Bush's meeting Monday with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to focus on the frustrating, six-year drive for a global free trade pact. Recent progress in the World Trade Organization talks could induce major developing countries, such as Brazil and India, to open up their manufacturing markets, a major sticking point in the deal.

Bush also sees Afghan President Hamid Karzai before leaving New York to return to Washington on Wednesday.

Bush's speech before the General Assembly is designed less to repeat past years' litany of crises, but instead to give a broader look at how "freedom from terror, from tyranny, from disease, poverty and illiteracy" are all interrelated and are moral obligations for U.N. members, Kozak said.

© 2007 The Associated Press