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Rice, Seeking Ceasefire, Flies to Beirut


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made a surprise stop in Beirut for crisis talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora about Israel's offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

On her way to the region, Rice said she is working for an urgently needed ceasefire in the conflict, which is now in its 13th day.

She took a heavily armored helicopter to Beirut for the first stop of her regional trip. From Beirut, Rice will head to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and then to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rice says any ceasefire must address the root cause of the current conflict - the threat that Hezbollah poses to Israel. She says Iran and Syria's active support for the militants has fanned the flames of conflict.

Secretary Rice is also due to take part in further talks on the Middle East crisis in Rome on Wednesday, with European, Arab and U.N. officials.

Meanwhile, officials in Malaysia say the Organization of the Islamic Conference may call a meeting of its executive committee to discuss the crisis. However, the 56-member Islamic group is not expected to convene a full emergency meeting of its membership.

Saudi Arabian officials asked the United States to back a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. The request was made Sunday during talks with President Bush and Secretary Rice in Washington.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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