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Rice Bolsters Peace Efforts with Israeli, Palestinian Meetings

In a demonstration of support for the cease-fire that came into effect on Sunday morning, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders on Thursday.
Rice’s meetings in Jerusalem and in Jericho coincide with U.S. President George W. Bush’s summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in the Jordanian capital Amman.
Earlier, speculation abounded about a possible meeting between Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and ‘Abbas. Both leaders have expressed their willingness to get together, but no date has been set.
Rice’s visit to the region raises hopes of renewed peace talks between Israel and the future Palestinian government. The U.S. wants to lay the groundwork to maintain the cease-fire and open a channel of dialogue between the two sides.
Sunday’s cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian armed factions in Gaza has generated optimism, although several Qassam missiles have continued to be fired onto Israeli communities from Gaza.
The incumbent Palestinian government, dominated by Hamas, does not recognize Israel.
Talks to form a Palestinian unity government have reached a dead end as the two main factions, Fatah and Hamas, continue to bicker over the power-sharing arrangements.
Washington hopes Rice’s visit to the region will accelerate the formation of a unity government, which would comply with international demands to recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and acknowledge previously signed agreements with Israel.