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Rice Names Middle East Security Envoy

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday named retired U.S. Marine General James Jones to be a special envoy for Middle East security. The move is intended to support the launch of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks announced at Tuesday's Annapolis conference. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Jones is a former supreme commander of NATO forces, and his appointment as security envoy underlines the importance the Bush administration attaches to the security aspects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Another prominent military man, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, has been working for two years to help boost the professionalism of Palestinian security forces.

Officials here say Dayton will continue in that post, while the Jones mission will be broader and include developing plans for how the security forces of a future Palestinian state will interact with those of Israel and its Arab neighbors, Jordan and Egypt.

At a State Department media event introducing Jones, Secretary of State Rice said security arrangements will play a critical part in the drive for a two-state settlement of the Middle East conflict announced Tuesday in Annapolis.

"Any lasting peace must be built on solid foundations of security," said Condoleezza Rice. "Israelis must be confident that a Palestinian state will increase their security, not detract from it. Palestinians must be capable of standing on their own, and policing their territory. And countries of the region must be invested in the success of the state-building effort, for their own security depends on it, too."

Rice said Jones will design and implement a plan for U.S. security assistance to the Palestinian Authority, and how that will be coordinated with American military aid to Israel.

Officials say Jones will also play a part in the increased U.S. role announced by President Bush Tuesday in helping the parties implement the international road map to Middle East peace.

The plan for mutual confidence-building steps by Israel and the Palestinians was issued in 2003 by the Middle East quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - but it has gone largely unfulfilled.

The sides committed in Annapolis to immediately begin implementing their road map obligations and President Bush said they agreed the United States will monitor and judge their compliance.

Jones ended his 40-year career in the Marine Corps earlier this year and became head of the Energy Institute of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He will take leave from that post to assume the special envoy mission.