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Spokesman: US Committed to Mideast Peace Goals Despite Olmert's Decision to Quit

Washington says it is committed to moving forward with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, despite the pending resignation of Israel's prime minister.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday the Bush administration will continue to work with all "responsible" Israeli leaders.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington on Wednesday and called the joint talks fruitful. She says the parties remain committed to the goal of reaching a full peace deal by the end of this year.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia made no comment after the meeting.

But, Palestinian delegation member Saeb Erekat says the two sides agreed to keep pursuing a comprehensive deal rather than an interim or partial understanding.

Erekat says Secretary Rice will have another three-way meeting with the parties in the Middle East on August 20th. He says more talks are possible in September in Washington and on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

McCormack says Rice would prefer to hand over a viable peace process to her successor rather than pushing the parties too hard and causing the talks to collapse. Rice leaves office in six months when the Bush administration's term ends.

Rice and Erekat say Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to step down in September is an internal Israeli matter.

Erekat says Palestinians want to make peace with all Israelis and not a particular party or individual. He says both Mr. Olmert and Livni, a leading contender to succeed him as prime minister, have told Palestinian negotiators that Israel intends to stay the course.