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Rice Gets Israeli Commitment to Remove 50 Roadblocks: U.S. Will Monitor Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in the Middle East to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace track, has obtained an Israeli commitment to remove 50 roadblocks from Palestinian areas, a gesture Palestinian leaders say does not go far enough. The Palestinians want to see major checkpoints dismantled rather than the "dirt mounds" as the roadblocks in question are referred to. Rice told reporters that the United States would be "monitoring and verifying" what the Israel says it is doing "to improve the movement and access of the Palestinian people in the West Bank." [Analysis] Rice again expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached before President George W. Bush leaves office – an emerging administration mantra apparently intended to offset the more pessimistic assessments of the parties themselves. In an interview to a German newspaper that was published on Sunday, Bush hinted at what he sees as the substance of an agreement that can be reached within his time frame: "An agreement before the end of my presidency that defines a clearly outlined Palestinian state." Rice later indicated the president expects a deal absent great detail but ‘outlining’ what a Palestinian state will look like by the time he returns to celebrate Israel‘s 60th anniversary in May.