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Rice Promises Redoubled Efforts to Help Palestinians


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States is very concerned about the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people and will redouble efforts to help them. Her comments come amid rising tension between rival Palestinian factions.

Secretary Rice held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and, at a news conference afterward, repeated the need for renewed peace efforts.

Rice also said the increasing economic crisis facing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza figured prominently in the talks.

"I told the President [Abbas], that we are very concerned, of course, about the humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territories, about the economic situation," she said.

Rice promised that the United States would "redouble its efforts to help." That, she indicated, includes talking to Israel about improving access and movement of people and goods to and from Palestinian areas.

"I will, of course, see what I can do to make sure that some of these crossings are open longer and more frequently so that economic activity can return," she said.

Secretary Rice came to Ramallah from talks in Saudi Arabia and Egypt aimed at bolstering support for President Abbas and a resumption of peace talks.

Her efforts come amid rising tension and a power struggle among Palestinians, pitting President Abbas and his Fatah faction against the Hamas government. A dozen people have been killed in fighting between militants linked to the two factions over the past several days.

President Abbas confirmed Wednesday that talks on forming a new unity government have broken down.

The president said there is at this time no dialogue with Hamas or with other factions. He also said he would carefully weigh all options available to him, hinting he could dissolve the current Hamas-led government and call for new elections.

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