Condoleezza Rice pushes Middle East agenda

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Israel for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, appealed to both sides to resolve their disputes.

Rice is making her fourth visit to Israel this year amid mounting signs of frustration in Washington over the lack of progress since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew forces and settlers from Gaza.

"The parties have now had the habit of cooperation in the Gaza withdrawal, and it is our hope that they are going to continue to build on that," she told.

Rice planned to have separate meetings on Monday with Sharon and Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Special Middle East envoy James D. Wolfensohn expressed frustration at the inability of Israel and the Palestinians to finish a deal on Palestinian movements into and out of the Gaza Strip.

In remarks to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Wolfensohn said Israel did not share his sense of urgency about resolving questions that have kept most Gazans confined to the territory. Wolfensohn also blamed the Palestinians for some delays, saying he had heard reports that explosives were found in trucks heading out of Gaza and into Israel, UPI reports.


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