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Bush sees mideast treaty by year-end

US President George W Bush said on Thursday he believed Israelis and Palestinians would sign a peace treaty before he leaves office a year from now.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2008 18:22 IST

US President George W Bush said on Thursday he believed Israelis and Palestinians would sign a peace treaty before he leaves office a year from now.

"In order for there to be lasting peace... (Palestinian president Mahmud) Abbas and Prime Minister (Ehud) Olmert have to come together and make tough choices and I'm convinced they will."

"I believe it's going to happen that there's going to be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office," he said at a press conference with Abbas on his first visit to the West Bank town of Ramallah.

"I am confident that with proper help that the state of Palestine will emerge."

Abbas said he hoped a Middle East peace deal can be clinched before the end of Bush's term a year from now.

However, Bush said the future Palestinian state has to be contiguous. "The vision of a Palestinian state is one of contiguous territory," the US president said. "Swiss cheese isn't going to work when it comes to the territory of a state."

The Palestinian territories are divided in two distinct geographic portions, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ruled by separate Palestinian factions and with Israeli-controlled land in between.

Bush also said Israel should help and not hinder the modernisation of Palestinian security forces.

"The Palestinian security forces in the West Bank are improving," he said.

"My message to Israelis is that they ought to help, not hinder the modernisation of Palestinian security forces."