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Rice to Travel to Middle East Sunday

  • VOA News

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is heading to the Middle East Sunday for talks on the Israel-Lebanon crisis.

Rice says she will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories. She also plans meetings in Italy with counterparts from other countries on how to help Lebanon address the challenges it faces because of Israel's bombardment.

Rice says the violence started because of Hezbollah's attack on Israeli soldiers from Lebanese territory. Rice says the United States urgently seeks an end to the violence. But she says a cease-fire that does not address the root causes of the situation would be a false promise.

Rice added she is pleased that Israel has agreed to open humanitarian corridors to allow aid to reach Lebanese civilians.

Before leaving Washington, the White House says Rice and President Bush will also discuss the situation with Saudi Arabian officials.

Rice spoke in Washington, hours after meeting in New York with three United Nations envoys who recently returned from a mission to assess conditions in the Middle East.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan blamed Hezbollah for abducting two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid that sparked the violence. He also condemned Israel's military response as collective punishment on the Lebanese people.

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