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Rice to Meet Abbas Monday


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, the second day of her latest Mideast peace mission.

Rice held talks Sunday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. She then had dinner with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Prior to the meetings, Rice warned she does not expect any breakthrough between Israelis and Palestinians during this four-day regional tour.

The visit is in preparation for a U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference next month.

Palestinian officials, including negotiator Saeb Erekat, say the peace process could fail if there is no timetable set to resolve key disputes, such as the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Israel prefers a vague declaration of principles. On Sunday, Mr. Olmert said an outline for a peace agreement is not a pre-requisite for the conference.

Also Sunday, Rice said parties in the region should be careful to avoid actions or statements that erode confidence in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

She was responding to a question about Israel's recent confiscation of West Bank land from Palestinian landowners to build a road for Palestinians.

Israel says the road is designed to make it easier for Palestinians to travel between Bethlehem and Jericho. But Palestinians fear the project is part of an Israeli scheme to expand a Jewish settlement (Maale Adumim) and prevent them from creating a viable state.

Rice also travels to Egypt in the coming days and will visit London for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah to try to build Arab support for the Mideast conference.

Washington has yet to set a date for the conference or send invitations. The conference is expected to be held in the U.S. city of Annapolis - 50 kilometers east of Washington.

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

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