08/02/2007, 00.00
MIDDLE EAST – UNITED STATES
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Abbas meeting last for Rice in her Mideast tour to launch US peace initiative

US secretary of state offers PNA president US$ 80 million in aid to reform Palestinian security services, but also asks him to deepen dialogue with Israel. She discusses Iran containment and Iraq security with Egypt and Gulf states.

Ramallah (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel, Condoleezza Rice was in Ramallah today, in the territories under the control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), where she met President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Her goal is to drum up support for the US peace initiative for the Mideast announced by US President George W. Bush for the fall. This is one of two main goals she had when she set off for the region; the other was to discuss with Egypt but especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States ways to contain Iran and achieve security in Iraq.

“This is a time to seize opportunities,” Ms Rice said at the end of her visit to Israel to signal US will to exert maximum pressure on friendly countries in the region.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was more cautious and said it was also a “time to proceed in a prepared and careful way because one does not want to miss opportunities by lack of preparation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said through a spokesman that Hamas had to be "kept out of the game" ahead of the upcoming international conference and that Abbas must offer “proper security guarantees."

Secretary Rice offered the Palestinian President U$ 80 million to upgrade the PNA security services, and called on him to deepen the dialogue with Israel.

US President’s call for a peace conference is coming at a time when most Arab countries, except for Syria, appear ready for a way out the decades-old conflict.

Saudi foreign minister said during Rice’s visit that his country could attend the Middle East peace conference proposed by the US president which would bring it to the same table as Israel, but only if it tackled “substantive matters of peace.”

Saudi Arabia was the main proponent of an Arab peace proposal made at an Arab summit in March of this year which offers Israel full diplomatic ties with 22 Arab countries in return for withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

In order to follow up this initiative the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries that recognise Israel’s existence, visited Israel on behalf of the Arab League and met Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.

The meeting which the parties described as positive with some reservations was the first of its kind between representatives of Israel and the organisation of Arab states.

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