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Source: Denmark
17 March 2005

PM optimistic after Mid East meetings
Denmark’s prime minister feels that yesterday’s meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders was ‘uplifting’

Liberal Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen shelved his previous moderately critical stance on Israel during his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

After the meeting, Rasmussen lived up to his promise to use the trip to listen to Mid East leaders, not lecture them.

‘I have received clear a message that Israel’s government is determined to take a few brave steps ahead,’ he said. ‘My conversations with them reflect that they have considered carefully what to do next. My discussion with Sharon was focused on security, while my conversation with Peres focused on what we can do to help. It shows me that the Israeli government is very determined.’

Rasmussen maintained his tougher line towards the Palestinian administration, which he was scheduled to meet later in the afternoon.

‘I have emphasized that it is important that the Palestinian leadership does everything in its power to bring an end to terrorist activities and uproot the terrorist networks,’ he said. ‘Further advance in the process demands a more secure situation in the area.’

‘All in all I must say that it has been an uplifting experience to have these meetings at a time of so much growth and - despite everything - a rekindled hope for a brighter future,’ Rasmussen said. ‘But we are all aware that it doesn’t take very much to unbalance the situation, and a flourishing hope can quickly be extinguished. So I’m not going to act the exaggerated optimist, but compared to what we have heard in recent years, this is a very exciting development.’

In addition to meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Rasmussen was also scheduled to meet with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

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