U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has defended U.S. plans to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference before the end of this year.
Rice told lawmakers in Washington Wednesday that moderate forces in the Middle East need a boost before politics in the region becomes more radical.
Critics such as House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos say the planned conference to be held near Washington is poorly timed.
Also Wednesday, the State Department announced that Rice will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah early next month - November 4th through the 6th.
Officials says she will continue to urge the two sides to narrow differences on a joint document expected to be presented at the conference.
Before returning to Israel or the Palestinian Territories, Rice will travel to Turkey on November first for talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul.
She then heads to Istanbul for a ministerial-level international meeting about Iraq.