Bush expected to put pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to put pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday to do more to end militant attacks against Israeli targets now that Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. Their White House meeting, to be followed by a joint press conference, is the first between Bush and Abbas since Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip last month after 38 years of occupation.

Washington sees the Gaza pullout as a chance to revive a U.S.-backed peace "road map" that envisions Palestinian statehood.

Abbas was embarrassed ahead of the meeting by the killing of three West Bank settlers in an attack claimed by an offshoot of the Fatah movement on Sunday.

Israel killed a militant the same day, froze security contacts and restored some road blocks it had lifted.

"There is more that the Palestinian leadership can do to end violence and dismantle terrorist organizations.

"It is important that the Palestinian leadership continue to take steps to put in place law and order in Gaza," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Palestinian officials said Abbas would tell Bush on Thursday that not only are the hopes raised by the Gaza pullout now in doubt, but so too is Bush's own vision of a viable Palestinian state one day in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

At the top of the list of Abbas's wishes is pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank and construction of the barrier there that Israel says keeps out suicide bombers and Palestinians call a land grab, reports the Reuters. I.L.

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