RAMALLAH, West Bank, (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories from Jan. 9 to 11, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday.
After Bush hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at talks in the United States last week, the White House said he would travel to the Middle East in early January. No venues or dates were given.
Senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio that Bush’s visit would take place between Jan. 9 and Jan. 11, following a trip to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Dec. 19.
In Washington, a White House spokesman would not confirm the dates.
Rice was the chief architect of last week’s conference at Annapolis, near Washington, at which Olmert and Abbas pledged to revive peace talks in the hope of reaching an accord in 2008. She has said the Bush administration will press for a peace deal before its term ends in early 2009.
The visit would be Bush’s first to the region since he became U.S. president in 2001.
Israeli news media said that, during his visit, he would try to reassure the Jewish state that Washington stood firm against Iran’s nuclear program despite a U.S. intelligence report this week — disputed by Israel — that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment on Erekat’s remarks. Israeli officials could not immediately be reached.
Bush previously visited Israel in 1988 while he was governor of Texas.