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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007, 21:04 GMT
Rice commits to Mid-East roadmap
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (left) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Condoleezza Rice says she is in the region to talk and listen

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the US is deeply committed to reviving the Middle East roadmap.

"I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper American engagement," she said after talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ms Rice, who later met Jordan's King Abdullah, offered no new suggestions.

Arab governments are thought to want greater United States engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in return for their support over Iraq.

Ms Rice is to hold talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, on Monday.

The establishment of a Palestinian state should be pursued on its own merits, not because of anything else - not because of Iran, not because of Iraq, not because of anything
Condoleezza Rice
US secretary of state

She is also due to visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in an attempt to drum up support for President George W Bush's new strategy in Iraq.

Ms Rice has said Arab leaders have every incentive to help as a stable Iraq is also in their interests.

In advance of her visit, the secretary of state said she was not bringing new proposals but would be listening, talking and looking for creative solutions.

During a news conference after her talks with Mr Abbas, she refuted suggestions that Washington was too distracted by concerns about Iraq and Iran to have any significant impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The establishment of a Palestinian state should be pursued on its own merits, not because of anything else - not because of Iran, not because of Iraq, not because of anything.

"The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their own state... and if there is anything that I can do and that the president can do to finally realise that day, why wouldn't we want to do that?"

Regional alarm

Mr Abbas said that his people would not accept temporary statehood, as mooted recently by Israel.

"We told Secretary Rice that we reject any temporary solutions, including a transitional stage, because we don't see it as a realistic option," he said.

MID-EAST CONFLICT
Palestinian gunmen shadowed by a huge Palestinian flag in Gaza

He also repeated his promise to hold early legislative and presidential elections if talks with the ruling Palestinian party Hamas over forming a national unity government failed.

Hamas, for its part, accused Ms Rice of taking sides.

A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhum, said her visit was serving only to "support one side [of] the Palestinian people against other".

Hamas and Mr Abbas's Fatah organisation have been at loggerheads since Hamas won last year's election and lost Western funding for the Palestinian territories over its refusal to recognise Israel.

The dispute has alarmed some of the region's leaders, including Jordan's King Abdullah who has warned that three civil wars are possible in the Middle East: in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

In Amman, King Abdullah told Ms Rice of the importance for the region of progress on the roadmap, warning that without tangible steps in the near future the cycle of violence would widen.

He also said that Iraq's Sunni Arabs must be engaged in the country's political process.

The king "stressed that any political process that does not do so was likely to fail and to invite more violence", a court statement said.


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Condoleezza Rice holds talks with Mahmoud Abbas



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