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Rice Urges Israelis and Palestinians To Resume Peace Talks

By VOA News
04 March 2008

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is calling on Israeli and Palestinian leaders re-start peace talks immediately.

Rice made her comments to reporters during a refueling stop in Brussels early Tuesday en route to Cairo, her first stop on a Mideast trip. Rice is scheduled to hold separate meetings later this week with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Her visit begins one day after Israeli ground troops withdrew from northern Gaza after a five-day offensive that left more than 100 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers dead.

Hamas militants called the pullout a victory. But Israeli Prime minister Ehud Olmert vowed to pursue further military action in Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended peace talks to protest Israel's offensive.

In Cairo, Rice is to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Ghiet and Intelligence Chief Omar Soliman. Talks will include Egyptian efforts to curb arms traffic into Gaza from Egyptian-controlled territory.

The Gaza violence touched off anti-Israeli protests in the West Bank and elsewhere in the region.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, thousands gathered Monday to chant slogans against Prime Minister Olmert and to urge Arab leaders to take a tough stand against U.S. support for Israel. Protests also were held in Lebanon and Egypt.

United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour has called on Israel to conduct an impartial investigation into the deaths of Palestinians during its offensive in Gaza. In a statement today, Arbour also condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas militants in Gaza against Israeli civilian targets.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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