Rice gives new push to break Arab-Israeli row

Amman, Nov 29 | Updated: Nov 30 2006, 06:39am hrs
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice embarks on a new US push to revive peace moves between Israel and the Palestinians on Wednesday after being criticised for not doing enough to resolve the conflict. Rice will attend a summit between US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan before heading to the West Bank city of Jericho on Thursday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The United States is under pressure from moderate Arab allies and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to make tackling the Israeli-Palestinian issue a priority, while also trying to staunch the violence in Iraq. She hopes to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on her trip although the State Department said her tight schedule might prevent this. Were still working on it, said one official.

The Bush administration hopes to build on a shaky ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and to capitalise on a speech this week in which Olmert called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said security issues would top the agenda at the talks with Abbas. Washington would offer suggestions on how to beef up Abbass security forces to prevent terrorist attacks and rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel, McCormack said.

US officials said Rice would call for movement on breaking the impasse in forming a Palestinian unity government with Hamas, the militant group that won elections last January and whose administration has been shunned by the West.

This (Hamas government) is not working, it is broken. We have encouraged Abu Mazen (Abbas) to find a way out of this and if he cant then he has other options available, a senior State Department official told Reuters.