Bush pledges to keep working with Abbas on peace deal

US President George W Bush vowed Thursday to keep working toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal even as time is running out on completing a deal before he leaves office, reported dpa.

Meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, Bush offered his full support for Abbas' leadership in negotiating a settlement with the Israelis, including a creation of a Palestinian state.

"I've got four more months left in office," Bush said. "And I'm hopeful that the vision that you and I have worked on can come to pass. And my only pledge to you is that I'll continue to work hard to see that it can come to pass."

Bush hosted a Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November that kickstarted negotiations between the two sides for the first time in years. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to reach a deal by the end of this year. Bush leaves office in January.

Abbas praised Bush for his role in the peace process and thanked him for US financial assistance aimed at building a Palestinian economy.

"We know very well how important this issue is for you," Abbas told Bush through a translator. "And we will continue to work very hard together in order to realize your vision of two states living side by side."

Israeli and Palestinian officials have met regularly since Annapolis to negotiate a deal but have revealed little about the progress. The most difficult issues that must be overcome are the status of Jerusalem, final borders between the two states and Palestinian demands for the right of refugees to return.

The process has also hit a snag over the corruption scandal that forced Olmert's resignation Sunday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has led the Israeli negotiations and backs the peace process, succeeded Olmert as head of the ruling Kadima Party and has begun efforts to form a new government.

Israeli President Shimon Peres charged Livni with setting up a government Monday, giving her 42 days to form a new coalition or face fresh elections.

The hardline Likud Party led by Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Livni's invitation to join in a coalition, but she was also negotiating with Ehud Barak, whose Labour Party has been serving as Kadima's junior partner in the governing coalition in the 120-seat Knesset.

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