A University of Northern Iowa professor who has spent a lot of time in the Middle East says there’s reason to be optimistic about peace in the region. There’s been continued violence since President Bush met with leaders there, but Kenneth Atkinson says things won’t change overnight. He says nothing in the Middle East moves quickly and the region has a long history and people there tend to think in the long term, rather than in the short term like Americans. Atkinson is a professor of history and religion, and says the recent pronouncements from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon indicates that things are happening. He says there’ll be many setbacks, like the terrorism, but he says with the Israeli Prime Minister saying the settlements must go, it indicates things are going on behind the scenes. Atkinson says the U.S. must do what it can to keep discussions going among both sides.He says it’s important for the United States and Europe to get involved and keep both sides talking, as he says as long as both sides are talking, the situation is hopeful. Atkinson says the people are getting tired of the terrorism. He says the violence has been so unimaginable the past few years that both sides realize that it has to stop no matter what. Atkinson says most research trips and much of the tourism to the region has been curtailed by the violence, another reason those in the area want to see it end.
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