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Rice Meets With Palestinian President, Emphasizes Sustainable Peace


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the need for a sustainable cease-fire in Lebanon during a brief meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The secretary also spoke of the need for a renewed focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, still raging in Gaza.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Secretary Rice said there is great concern for innocent civilians, be they in Lebanon, in Israel or in Gaza.

She said while a cease-fire in Lebanon is urgently needed, it must be enduring. That, she said is also the basis for any long-term peace in the region.

"We need to get a sustainable peace in this region," Rice says. "That is really the problem. There must be a way for the people to reconcile their differences and move forward toward peace."

President Abbas agreed, saying the violence is the result of the absence of peace.

Mr. Abbas also called for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon to stop the suffering of the Lebanese people. But, he also said his government is doing all it can to obtain a truce in Gaza, where more than 100 people have died in an Israeli offensive during the past month.

Rice's visit in Ramallah briefly turned attention back to the violence in Gaza and the ongoing stalemate in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rice said that issue must not be forgotten.

"We must remain focused on what is happening here in the Palestinian territories - our desire to get back on a course that will lead ultimately to President Bush's vision and the vision of President Abbas of two states living side by side in peace," Rice says.

As Rice met with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the fighting continued in Gaza and in Lebanon.

Israeli warplanes continued air strikes into Lebanon, including into southern Beirut. Fighting also continued in the south, just inside the Lebanese border, where Israeli forces are trying to push back Hezbollah guerrillas and establish control over that area. Hezbollah militants again sent dozens of rockets into northern Israel, including into the port city of Haifa.

In Gaza, Palestinian militants fired homemade Qassam rockets into Israel and Israeli artillery struck northern and southern Gaza.

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