President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama. Photo by AFP
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Just days ahead of his Mideast trip, U.S. President Barack Obama met with about 10 leaders of Arab-American groups who encouraged him to deliver a message of hope to the Palestinian people even if he is unable to immediately deliver a peace plan with Israel.

Obama met with the officials Monday, four days after meeting with Jewish leaders as part of the preparation for his visit. Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 20. Obama will also make stops in Ramallah and Jordan.

In a statement, participants said the U.S. can "facilitate a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." They said they were grateful Obama had sought their advice ahead of the trip.

During his trip, Obama will go to Ramallah, where he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other high-ranking PA officials. After that he will return to Jerusalem and give the major speech of his visit at the International Conventions Center.

Obama is also expected to pay a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, members of his delegation told Israeli government ministry representatives on Monday.

According to a high-ranking Israeli official, that stop, scheduled for Friday, March 22, was added to his itinerary only in the past few days. UNESCO recognized the Church of the Nativity as a Palestinian World Heritage Site in June 2012, several months after Palestine became a full-fledged member of the organization.