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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 08:09 GMT 09:09 UK
Reach out to Israel, Arabs urged
Condoleezza Rice
Ms Rice said Arab nations must take a more active peace role
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called on Arab nations to reach out to Israel.

Ms Rice was speaking in Jerusalem after three days of meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders.

She said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to meet every two weeks.

Ms Rice also said there was a "path of co-operation" with the new Palestinian unity government.

The secretary of state, speaking on the eve of the opening of an Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, also said a Palestinian peace deal by the end of next year was "not inconceivable".

'Complex' issues

Ms Rice urged Arab nations to take a more active role in regional peace efforts, although she said the presence of the militant Hamas faction in the Palestinian government made the issues "more complex".

[Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas] will not just talk about their day-to-day issues, but also about a political horizon
Condoleezza Rice

"The Arab states must be reaching out to Israel... to show Israel that they accept its place in the Middle East," she said.

Ms Rice said there could be co-operation with the new Palestinian unity government but stressed again that Hamas must renounce violence.

Hamas has refused to adhere to three key international demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and honour previous peace agreements.

Israel has rejected the new Palestinian government but Ms Rice has been trying to convince it to be more flexible.

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She said Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas, who heads the other main Palestinian faction in the government, Fatah, would meet regularly and that she would attend some of the meetings.

"They achieved something, which is the very regularised meetings between the two of them, in which they will not just talk about their day-to-day issues, but also about a political horizon," she said.

Peace plan

Ms Rice said it was "not inconceivable" for a peace deal to be reached before the end of US President George W Bush's tenure.

But she added: "We're not yet at the... [stage] of final status" negotiations."

The Arab League summit is expected to discuss a 2002 Saudi peace initiative under which Arab nations would recognise Israel if Israel withdrew from all territories occupied in the 1967 war.

There is also the possibility of a full regional summit which Mr Olmert has said he would not hesitate to attend.

But Ms Rice said it was "premature to talk about any specific kind of meeting".


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