JERUSALEM â€” In his first direct discussion with a Palestinian Authority official, President Bush said statehood is a prerequisite for ending Palestinian suffering, the official said Saturday.
Bush met several times with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon but has refused to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or his aides, calling his regime corrupt and linked to terror. In a June speech, Bush called for Arafat's ouster.
The conversation between Bush and Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian minister for international cooperation and planning, occurred Thursday during a reception Bush held for heads of state and representatives in New York, where the U.N. General Assembly is meeting.
Shaath said the two spoke for about seven minutes. He said Bush reiterated his support for an independent and economically viable Palestinian state.