U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday he looks forward to welcoming newly-elected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Washington. Speaking with reporters in the Oval Office, the President said, "I look forward to welcoming him here to Washington if he chooses to come here." It was an invitation that was never offered to the late Yasser Arafat. The President said that he is "heartened by the elections" in the Palestinian Authority. He also said that it is important for Israel to follow through with the planned Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Bush said, "It is essential that Israel keep a vision of two states living side by side in peace, and that, as the Palestinians begin to develop the institutions of a state, that the Israeli government support the development of those institutions and recognize that it is essential that there be a viable economy, that there be a viable health care system, that people be allowed to start building a society that meets their hopes and needs."
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