SLUG: 2-291155 Bush / Mideast React (S Alt)
TITLE=BUSH / MIDDLE EAST (S ALTERNATE )
INTRO: President Bush says Israel has a right to defend itself following Tuesday's bus attack in Jerusalem. V-O-A's Scott Stearns reports, the White House is downplaying speculation that the bombing and Israel's decision to re-occupy Palestinian areas has delayed the president's much-anticipated speech on the peace process.
TEXT: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says Israel has a right to defend itself as it recovers from what he calls this "very serious terrorist attack."
Mr. Fleischer did not comment directly on Israel's announcement (Wednesday) that it will now re-occupy Palestinian territories and hold them "as long as terror continues."
Whatever action Israel takes, he says President Bush hopes Israel remembers the consequences for what happens tomorrow, as the path to peace must be pursued through both enhancing security and political dialogue.
Mr. Fleischer says the president has an ongoing concern that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are not doing enough to stop the violence.
Mr. Bush was expected to lay out his new vision for Mideast peace this week, but reports say he delayed that speech following Tuesday's bombing. Mr. Fleischer would not say the speech has been delayed, only that it will come "soon." He says the president will speak at what he calls "the appropriate time" when it will have the most impact and do the most good. (SIGNED)
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