Sir, - President Bush's speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is truly shocking. The very idea that Mr Bush and his advisers should dictate to the Palestinian people who their leaders should be is an affront to democrats everywhere. It is particularly ironic given the nature of Mr. Bush's own election.

The Palestinian people have elected a parliament and a president under the auspices of the Oslo accords. The results of these speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the holding of more recent elections has not been possible largely due to the conflict in the region. The actions of the Israeli government with the support of the United States have made it impossible for the Palestinian Authority to function and to police the area they were to control.

The stopping of the hideous suicide bombings that all right-minded people condemn will only come about if there is a functioning Palestinian Authority.The very idea that the ejection of Mr Arafat, who has brought the PLO through some of the greatest compromises of any occupied people, will somehow make things better is truly ludicrous. It is only the forces of reaction in the shape of Hamas who would offer leadership in these circumstances. To make matters worse, the US and Israeli governments are well aware of this fact and yet still pursue this policy.

It would be more appropriate for the US government to put its energies into ensuring that one of its closest allies complies with the resolutions of the United Nations by withdrawing from the territory it has occupied. Even the smallest of confidence-building measures such as halting new settlements in the occupied territories is beyond the Israeli Government.

There is now a clear responsibility on the European Union, the largest provider of financial aid to the region, to now play a more significant political role to offset the increasingly unhinged US approach. - Yours, etc.,

MICHAEL McLOUGHLIN, International Secretary, The Labour Party, Ely Place, Dublin 2.

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Sir, - From your report on Bush's recent speech on the Palestine leadership, one could think that he is trying to redefine democracy. Not only did he lose the popular vote in the US in 2000, he was "elected" president by the US Supreme Court, whose members are political appointees with a conservative republican majority.

Since he has no issue with ignoring the majority of votes in his own country, he now appears to be moving on to other countries to "elect" leaders that suit him and his agenda. I suppose Iraq is next! - Yours, etc.,

TOM HARPER, Carysfort Downs, Blackrock, Co Dublin.