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Rice Urges MIddle East to Seize Opportunities for Peace


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Israel, where she urged all parties to "seize opportunities" that may arise at an upcoming Middle East peace conference.

Rice held talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli officials ahead of the conference proposed by President Bush for later this year.

An Israeli spokesman said Mr. Olmert told Rice that the Palestinian militant group Hamas must not be included in peace efforts. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June in fighting with the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice meets with Mr. Abbas and officials of his West Bank-based government on Thursday.

In Gaza Wednesday, fighting between Hamas and gunmen affiliated with the Islamic Jihad group killed one person.

The incident appeared to be the first clash between the militant groups since Hamas took control of Gaza.

During Rice's previous stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabian officials said they would seriously consider attending the peace conference if invited. A meeting between Saudi and Israeli officials would be a major breakthrough in the long-stalled Middle East peace process.

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