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Ceasefire "urgent", says Rice

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Ceasefire "urgent", says Rice

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As diplomatic activity intensifies, Washington is stepping into the fray. President George W. Bush met with senior Saudi officials yesterday shortly before his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed for the Middle East. Rice now agrees there is an urgent need for a ceasefire, but insists it must be sustainable. The Saudis came away from their talks feeling encouraged.

“I found the president very conscious of the destruction and the bloodshed that the Lebanese are suffering and his anxiety to see the cessation of hostility,” said Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal.

Envoys from Germany, France and Britain have held separate discussions with Israeli leaders ahead of Rice’s arrival, which could be decisive given Washington’s close ties with Israel. Up for discussion is a possible beefed-up peacekeeping force for south Lebanon – an idea backed by Israel’s defence minister. Easing the humanitarian crisis will also be a priority. Few however expect diplomacy to deliver swift results.