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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-316070 Bush / Mideast (L 2nd update)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=5/19/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=BUSH / MIDEAST (L 2ND UPDATE)

NUMBER=2-316070

BYLINE=PAULA WOLFSON

DATELINE= WHITE HOUSE

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

/// UPDATING CR 2-316056 TO INCLUDE COLIN POWELL COMMENT AND LATE WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT ////

INTRO: President Bush is urging Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint, as his administration voices concern over escalating violence in the Gaza Strip. V-O-A's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House.

TEXT: President Bush says both sides need to show maximum restraint so the peace process can get moving again.

/// BUSH ACT ///

It is essential that people respect innocent life in order for us to achieve peace.

/// END ACT ///

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with his cabinet, the president stopped short of condemning the attack by Israeli military forces on Palestinian demonstrators in the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip. He said he wanted to get more information from the Israelis about the incident.

But as the hours passed, the words from the Bush administration got tougher. Spokesman Scott McClellan said there was deep concern about the loss of Palestinian life, calling the situation in Gaza "tragic" and saying the United States regrets the violence.

Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke out after talking to Israeli officials and promising similar contacts with the Palestinians. They were some of the toughest words ever directed at the Israeli government by a Bush administration official.

/// POWELL ACT ///

I believe the activities of the Israeli defense forces in Gaza in recent days have caused a problem and have worsened the situation and I think made it more difficult for us to move forward and get back in the peace process.

/// END ACT ///

At day's end Wednesday, with pictures of the violence in Gaza airing on American television, the White House declared its intent to consult immediately with all parties to find a way to defuse the situation.

Israel has said its military operation in southern Gaza is aimed at tunnels that are being used to smuggle in arms from neighboring Egypt. The White House said it will work with the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Egyptians to stop the arms smuggling and end terrorist activities in Gaza.

In a written statement, Scott McClellan stressed that while the United States recognizes Israel's right to defend itself, the current military operation in Gaza has just made matters worse. He said it has worsened the humanitarian situation and has not enhanced Israel's security. (SIGNED)

NEB/PW/KL



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