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World leaders to meet with Bush

ARIEL SHARON: The Israeli prime minister's visit is expected to be one of goodwill, but a jump start of Mideast peace talks is not anticipated.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon takes one message to the Bush administration and American Jewish leaders this week: He will not resume peace talks until Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat eschews violence.

"I am profoundly aware that Israel and its citizens possess the basic right _ which is the right of every nation _ to live in security and peace," Sharon said before flying out of Israel on Sunday for a Tuesday meeting with President Bush, the first since both leaders took office.

Shootings continued in various locations in the West Bank and Gaza throughout the weekend, and two bombs were detonated near the West Bank town of Hebron. A Palestinian uprising that began in late September, and Israel's attempts to crush it, have so far taken the lives of nearly 450 people, most of them Palestinians.

Sharon goes to Washington with new Israeli intelligence information directly linking Arafat's Force 17 bodyguard unit to armed attacks against Israelis. In particular, Israeli officials say last week's siege of the West Bank city of Ramallah directly foiled a planned bombing outside Jerusalem.

With few aides but a large press contingent, the visit is expected to be high on goodwill but yield little in the way of policy initiatives that could restart the peace talks that collapsed in the waning days of the Clinton administration. President Clinton enjoyed a special rapport with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, whom Sharon defeated in early February after peace negotiations fell apart amid violence.

Bush, a rancher like Sharon, got to know the Israeli leader personally on a trip to Israel just over two years ago. Now, say analysts, U.S. Republicans and members of Sharon's Likud Party have no illusions of peace treaties but are of one mind in wanting to stabilize the region, even if that means through military deterrence.

"Violence won't work for the Palestinians and military solutions won't work for the Israelis," said Dennis Ross, Clinton's Middle East negotiator who is now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Neither side can do a (peace) deal today."

The Israeli prime minister's desire to isolate Arafat is expected to received a sympathetic ear from Bush administration officials.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah are due to make introductory visits to Bush in the coming weeks. But Bush administration officials have made clear that Arafat is not welcome until there is a reduction of violence in the West Bank, between Israel and Jordan, as well as the Gaza Strip, between Israel and Egypt.

Sharon's schedule is full of short introductory meetings with top U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenent. He also will meet with members of Congress following his session with Bush.

Sharon is reviled as a war criminal throughout the Arab world for his failure to prevent a 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp outside Beirut.

Arab American groups are expected to protest in full force outside Washington's Hilton Hotel tonight when Sharon is to address the annual meeting of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.

And on Tuesday morning, when Sharon is scheduled to meet Bush, Arab Americans all over the country are expected to pull their children out of school in protest.