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Wednesday, October 03, 2001

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Palestine state part of U.S. vision: Bush

WASHINGTON, OCT. 2. The U.S. President, Mr. George W. Bush, today said the creation of a Palestinian state had always been part of his country's vision for West Asia, but it was vital to first reduce the violence in the region. ``The idea of a Palestinian state has always been a part of a vision, so long as the right of Israel to exist is respected,'' Mr. Bush told reporters after a meeting with Congressional leaders.

He said the U.S. was working closely with Israel and the Palestinians to reduce violence and enable a return to the negotiating table to eventually hammer out a peace plan. ``We are working diligently with both sides to encourage a reduction of violence so that meaningful discussions can take place,'' he said.

He said the U.S. still backed a proposal drafted by former Senator George Mitchell about paving the way for a return to peace negotiations.Israeli police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian protesters in the West Bank today, witnesses said.

Meanwhile, in West Bank, confrontations began as several hundred people marched in protest against an Israeli army blockade on a West Bank road that has prevented many students from attending Bir Zeit University near Ramallah.

The protest was also attended by some foreign peace activists. Witnesses said several people appeared to have been hurt but hospital sources said there were no serious injuries.

Citing security reasons, Israel tightened a blockade on Palestinian areas following the eruption of the Palestinian uprising against occupation last year. Palestinians say the measure is a form of collective punishment.

The new violence broke out despite fresh U.S. pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to end a year of bloodshed since a Palestinian uprising began against Israeli occupation.

- Reuters

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