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Rice to Depart for Difficult Talks in Middle East

  • VOA News

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will depart late on Friday for the Middle East for talks with Israel's prime minister and the Palestinian president.

Rice is to hold separate meetings Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Ehud Olmert, then convene a three-way meeting Monday.

The secretary of state's visit to the region comes after last week's agreement to form a Palestinian unity government between Mr. Abbas's more moderate Fatah faction and the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Rice has said that the inclusion of Hamas in the government makes peace efforts "more complicated."

She has not said that Washington would boycott the new government, but said she would reserve judgment until after it is formed.

Secretary Rice said she hopes bringing focus to the so-called "political horizon" for the Palestinians will help Mr. Abbas and reduce the influence of Hamas.

Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said today that he hopes to form the new government within three weeks.

International donors froze aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas took power last year, because of the militant group's refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

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