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Rice Tries Again to Re-Start Mideast Peace Process

  • VOA News

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Egypt, on the first leg of a Middle East tour aimed at putting new life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Rice has said that she hopes to rally more Arab support for peace talks.

The US secretary of state is in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan for talks on Saturday with the foreign ministers and intelligence chiefs of the Arab Quartet -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Secretary Rice plans to encourage Arab states to promote a peace plan that was offered by the Arab League in 2002. The plan would give Israel normalized ties with Arab nations in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from land it seized in the 1967 war.

Rice is to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday. She is expected to speak with him about Egypt's upcoming constitutional referendum, which critics say would give police more powers to arrest and spy on suspects.

Also Sunday, Rice will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and then travel to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

President Bush said he is sending Secretary Rice back to the region for the third time this year because securing peace is a US priority.

This is her first trip to the region since rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah formed a new unity government last week.

The Bush administration says it will not work with the Islamic militant group Hamas, but will have contacts with other members of the new Palestinian government. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his country is willing to make "painful" concessions to advance the long-stalled peace process.

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