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Rice Begins Mideast Peace Mission in Jerusalem

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has begun a new peace mission to the Middle East. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, there are low expectations after Palestinian moderates and militants agreed to join forces in a national unity government.

Secretary Rice arrived in Jerusalem to prepare for a rare summit on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But it did not take long for her to lower expectations. "It is in fact a complicated time," she said.

Rice was referring to a decision by Mr. Abbas to join a national unity government with the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas. However, Hamas has rejected key international conditions for the lifting of crippling sanctions, namely, recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence. "It only makes sense that you have to renounce violence, it only makes sense that you have to recognize the right of your partner to exist and to respect international agreements. And so those principles remain the foundational principles for the formation of two states," she said.

The creation of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace is the goal of the internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan.

Rice spoke at a joint news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who said the Palestinian unity government is unacceptable. "I think that also the moderates on the Palestinian side need to understand that the path toward a Palestinian state goes through the renunciation of violence and terrorism and not by compromising with terror," she said.

Rice will meet with Mr. Abbas on Sunday in the West Bank town of Ramallah. He is expected to tell her that he made the best possible deal that he could with Hamas and he will urge the US to recognize the new Palestinian government.