White House plays down Middle East conference

The White House said Tuesday the international meeting on the Middle East proposed by President George W. Bush should not be viewed as "a big peace conference" and it's too early to say where or when it will be. Spokesman Tony Snow at first described the meeting as an international conference, but several hours later he backed away from that portrayal as being too ambitious. After many years of disappointments and setbacks in the search for peace in the Middle East, the administration appears intent on preventing expectations from rising too high. Bush has avoided direct engagement in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians for several years, and he has been reluctant to ask hard compromises of close ally Israel. "This is a meeting," Snow said. "I think a lot of people are inclined to try to treat this as a big peace conference. It's not."