Archive for Monday, October 15, 2007

Rice struggles in Mideast peace mission

October 15, 2007

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— Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opened an intense round of Mideast shuttle diplomacy Sunday, struggling to bring Israelis and Palestinians close enough to make a planned U.S.-hosted peace conference worthwhile.

The two sides are at bitter odds over an outline of a peace agreement that would be presented at next month's conference, and Rice sought to lower expectations her mission would finalize preparations for the gathering.

Underscoring her less-than-optimistic assessment, Israeli and Palestinians traded shots about the other's commitment to peace even as she arrived in the region. During her four-day visit, she will bounce between Israel and the West Bank, seeking a consensus.

Her hope is to close the gap as Israel and the Palestinian Authority try to forge an outline of an eventual peace deal and produce a joint statement for the conference. It is expected to held in Annapolis, Md., in late November.

But after Rice's first series of meetings, a senior State Department official hinted that the date could slide as the lead negotiators for the two sides will begin only this week to try to craft the document.

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