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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 March 2007, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Rice urges end to Mid-East enmity
Condoleezza Rice (left) and Hosni Mubarak (right)
Ms Rice called Egypt "a leader in the search for peace"
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called on all Arab states to do their utmost to work towards a peace settlement with Israel.

She was speaking after talks in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan with President Hosni Mubarak.

Washington hopes broader Arab-Israeli reconciliation can help foster an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Ms Rice then went to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas before meeting Israel's PM Ehud Olmert.

Mr Olmert on Sunday expressed what correspondents said was unusually blunt criticism of Mr Abbas, accusing the Palestinian leader of violating a promise to free a captured Israeli soldier before forming a new Palestinian national unity government.

"We can't ignore the fact that the chairman of the Palestinian Authority blatantly violated a series of commitments to Israel, especially the commitment that no national unity government would be formed before Gilad Shalit's release," Mr Olmert said.

I would hope that every state would search very deep to see what it can do at this crucial time to finally end this conflict
Condoleezza Rice

This refers to the seizure of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked militants last June.

Palestinians have said that Mr Abbas never made such a promise, although he has said he would do his best to work for Cpl Shalit's release.

"There is no excuse for Israel to continue to run from serious negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and President Abbas," said senior Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudeina.

Leader for peace

Mr Olmert's remarks came several hours before Ms Rice was due in Jerusalem for talks as she continues her shuttle diplomacy aimed at restarting the dormant Middle East peace process.

Ms Rice's trip is her seventh to the region in eight months.

Condoleezza Rice arriving in Aswan
Condoleezza Rice is engaged in a hectic round of talks

Washington has not recognised the Palestinian unity government, but says it will talk to ministers who are not members of the Islamic group Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist group.

In Egypt, Ms Rice told a news conference that she had held a good meeting with President Hosni Mubarak, calling Egypt "a leader in the search for peace".

Addressing a news conference afterwards, Ms Rice said she hoped every state would "search very deep" to see how it could help end the conflict.

"The Palestinian people have waited long enough to have a state of their own and the Israeli people have waited long enough to have the kind of security that will come from the establishment of a stable and democratic neighbour to live in peace with," Ms Rice said.

Arab imitative

On the first leg of her visit, Ms Rice met foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in Aswan on Saturday.

BBC state department correspondent Jonathan Beale, who is travelling with Ms Rice, said there was no sense the meeting had come up with any solutions to break the Middle East deadlock.

The US is keen for Arab states, who meet at a summit in Saudi Arabia on 28 March, to revive a 2002 Saudi initiative to resolve the Arab-Israeli problem.

The plan offers Israel normalisation of ties with Arab states if it pulls out of all Arab land it occupied in 1967.

Israel rejected the plan outright after it was first proposed at an Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, but Mr Olmert is now giving it a guarded welcome.






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