President Bush called Monday for a "properly structured" Middle East peace conference and an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
In apparent agreement with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who met with him for about an hour, Bush also supported "achievement of Palestinian political rights."The president's statement, in the White House Rose Garden, could exert pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, scheduled to meet with Bush on Thursday.
"A properly structured international conference could play a useful role at an appropriate time," Bush said, endorsing one of Mubarak's principal proposals.
The Egyptian leader said the talks the Bush administration is having with the Palestine Liberation Organization constitute one of the "breakthroughs" in the region.
"In short," Mubarak said in urging Bush to prod the Israelis, "the situation is right for an active effort more than ever before."
Meanwhile, White House publicity aides watched the dark skies, hoping the rains would stay away and Bush could take the Egyptian president to a baseball game.
Mubarak said he had seen a few games on television, but he told reporters as he opened White House talks with Bush that the Baltimore Orioles opener against the Boston Red Sox would be his first in person.
Mubarak also was hoping for a resumption of U.S. aid, and a U.S. official hinted earlier that aid may start flowing to Cairo again.
"There's a chance, but not an absolute lock," the official said Friday in a session that barred disclosing his name or title.
The Bush administration is delaying $230 million in aid to Egypt because Mubarak's government failed to adopt acceptable economic reforms.
There are several reasons for the show of U.S. friendship for Egypt.
It is the only Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. It supports U.S. initiatives in the Middle East. It is considered moderate politically and pro-Western.
Back-to-back visits by Mubarak and by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir later in the week are forcing the Bush administration to come to grips with Mideast problems, even though no quick solutions are in sight.
Mubarak and Shamir are focusing on the Palestinian rebellion on the West Bank and in Gaza, but not in parallel ways.