Bush calls for Middle East peace conference

1101.jpgPresident George W. Bush on Monday called for a Middle East peace conference later this year and pledged $190 million in new aid to the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Aiming to break years of stalemate, Bush called for a meeting between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and their neighbors. He did not say where it would take place.

Reaffirming his vision of a Palestinian state at peace with Israel, Bush said Palestinians faced “a moment of choice” between the Islamist militant group Hamas and Abbas’s more moderate vision.

“This is a moment of clarity for all Palestinians. Now comes a moment of choice,” Bush said in a White House speech. “The alternatives before the Palestinian people are stark.”

After the violent takeover last month of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, Western countries had rallied behind Abbas with promises of renewed aid.

Their hope is to isolate Hamas, branded a terrorist group by the United States, and to spur peace moves between Palestinian moderates and Israel.

Some political analysts said the strategy could backfire as Abbas will be viewed more as a collaborator with Israel and Washington.

U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have long wanted Bush to get more involved in Middle East peacemaking. He is due to leave office in 18 months.

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