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Rice lays groundwork ahead of Mideast tripartite talks

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Rice lays groundwork ahead of Mideast tripartite talks

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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders individually ahead of major trilateral negotiations on Monday. The talks have been overshadowed by a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indicating prospects for peace had dimmed.

He said he and US President George W Bush had agreed to shun any new Palestinian administration that did not recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous peace agreements. Monday’s will be the first meeting since warring Palestinian factions agreed on creating a unity government earlier this month. Both Abbas’ Fatah faction and the ruling Hamas hope the unity deal will end internal violence and persuade the West to restore aid to the Palestinian Authority. It has been cut off since Hamas came to power.