Abbas, in Washington, Thanks Bush for Supporting Peace

Bush to Palestinian President: U.S. administration will continue to work with PA on security, aid issues.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday at the White House in Washington, thanking the American leader for all his support in efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.

"There is no doubt that you have done a great deal, Mr. President, and you have exerted a great deal of efforts aiming at achieving that vision that we will work together to achieve. Your efforts, Mr. President, as well as your vision, both help us and the Israelis to work very hard during the last year," Abbas told Bush.

"We will continue to work with you and we will continue to keep the hope alive in order to reach a political solution for our issue and for the Middle East," Abbas concluded.

Bush, for his part, said the U.S. administration will continue to work with the Palestinian authorities on security matters and on helping to coordinate international economic assistance.

"As you know," Bush said, "I've got four more months left in office and I'm hopeful that the vision that you and I have worked on can come to pass," he added.

"Hope remains," Abbas responded. "We cannot live without hope."

Mideast peace talks were relaunched at a U.S.-hosted summit last November, and with prodding from the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians set a year-end target for reaching a final peace accord that would end six decades of hostilities.

Despite months of negotiations, there have been no apparent breakthroughs, and the sides remain at odds over key issues like the final borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the competing claims to Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.

Negotiations have been stalled by the resignation of outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert, who stepped down amid a string of corruption allegations. Tzipi Livni, Israel's prime minister-designate, has signaled that she will keep peace negotiations going.

In an interview Thursday with Arabic-language U.S.-sponsored satellite television network Alhurra, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked whether there was still a chance that an agreement would be reached by the end of the year, to which she replied that the Israelis and Palestinians were "not pessimistic about their negotiations. Their negotiations, I think, are going well. They are working very hard. They?re dealing with all the hardest issues. We still believe that this can take place before the end of the year."