President Bush has affirmed US support for the "road map" Middle East peace plan, and called on parties in the region to take concrete steps toward its implementation.
Mr. Bush and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to reporters after talks at the White House on Thursday. Mr. Bush praised Mr. Abbas for rejecting terrorism, and said the United States will stand by him as he seeks to end corruption in the Palestinian Authority and reform the Palestinian security services. Mr. Bush said Israel's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip presents a "real opportunity" and pledged 50 million dollars to help the Palestinian Authority rebuild Gaza's housing and infrastructure. President Bush said Israel must stop expanding settlements in areas captured during the 1967 Mideast War. In his comments, Mr. Abbas expressed "deep concern" about the settlement activity and called on Israel to free Palestinian prisoners.