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Bush to meet Abbas at Egypt's 'Davos'

world Updated: May 17, 2008 10:10 IST
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US President George W Bush flies to Egypt where he will meet Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and address the World Economic Forum on the Middle East.

Arriving in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh via oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia at the end of a regional tour, Bush will also meet Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II at the capitalist networking jamboree.

The WEF meeting, dubbed the Davos of the Middle East, will bring together 1,500 people, including heads of state, business leaders and ministers from 55 countries, under the theme "learning from the future."

But the region's future is as uncertain as ever, with the Israel-Palestinian conflict increasingly intractable, Lebanon rocked by eight days of sectarian bloodshed and Egypt seeing a wave of social unrest over skyrocketing prices.

Bush's regional tour, his second since January, comes in the wake of last year's Annapolis conference aimed at restarting the stalled Middle East peace process, but hopes of a deal by the end of his term in January are dwindling.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been mooted to attend, but with little Middle East peace progress to justify a three-way summit, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres will be leading the Israeli delegation.

After meeting Israeli leaders during celebrations of Israel's 60th anniversary, Bush picks up negotiations with the Palestinians on Saturday with talks and a dinner with Abbas. On Sunday, Bush is due to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad.

The Middle East peace process will also likely come up in Bush's talks with Mubarak on Saturday as Egypt acts as the interlocutor between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which took over the Gaza Strip last June.