U.S. President George W. Bush said on Saturday he was confident about a Middle East peace deal being reached before his term ends, amid growing Arab criticism that he is biased towards Israel.
"In my speech tomorrow (Sunday), I'll make it clear that I believe we can get a state defined by the end of my presidency, and we'll work hard to achieve that objective," Bush told reporters in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh."
The U.S. leader, who is to deliver a speech on the opening day of the Middle East World Economic Forum (WEF), said he had spoken again with Israeli leaders about his goal and would do so with the Palestinians on Saturday and Sunday.
"Everyone of these meetings helps us inch toward the goal of getting a state defined with borders and the refugee issue as well as security concerns defined by the end of my presidency," Bush said.
"And I believe we can do that, and I know it's going to be important for the peace in the Middle East," he said in response to questions about accusations in the Arab press of his bias towards Israel.
Bush arrived in Egypt Saturday from regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia and went straight into talks with President Hosni Mubarak before meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The president began his tour in Israel where he addressed parliament as the Jewish nation marked the 60th anniversary of its founding, sparking the ire of Egypt's press.
"Bush has forgotten his role as the just mediator (of the Arab-Israeli conflict) and exposed his real self," said the editorial in Egypt's state-owned Al-Gomhuria.
Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks at a U.S. -hosted meeting in November, committing themselves to a target of reaching a deal by the time Bush leaves office. So far, there has been virtually no visible progress in those talks.
Bush must "pressure Israel to accelerate negotiations and not to waste time, in order to reach an agreement by the end of the year," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP shortly before the two leaders met.
Bush also met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and is also to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II as well as Iraqi and Pakistani leaders ahead of his address to the WEF.
Bush's regional tour, his second since January, follows efforts at last year's Annapolis conference aimed at restarting the stalled Middle East peace process, but hopes of a deal by the end of his term in January are dwindling.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been mooted to attend the economic forum but with little Middle East peace progress to justify a three-way summit,
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres will lead the Israeli delegation instead.
The WEF meeting, dubbed the Davos of the Middle East, will bring together 1,500 people, including heads of state, business leaders and ministers from 55 countries, under the theme "learning from the future."
Sharm el-Sheikh, which has been the scene of militant attacks in the past, was under a security lockdown for the event.