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Rice hopes for Mideast agreement before Bush term ends

  • Story Highlights
  • Condoleezza Rice says no guarantees, but goal is agreement by January 2009
  • Israelis, Palestinians have said they will try to reach agreement by then, Rice says
  • Secretary of State preparing for Mideast summit in Annapolis, Maryland, next week
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday the United States will try to get an agreement on Mideast peace before the end of the Bush administration.

In an off-camera conversation with journalists at the State Department, Rice talked about next week's conference in Annapolis, Maryland, at which she will host Israeli and Palestinian delegations, as well as representatives from more than 40 other countries.

"The parties have said they are going to make efforts to conclude this during the president's term. That's what we will try and do," Rice said. "Nobody can guarantee that. All you can do is make our best effort."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plan to attend the November 27 conference, where they hope to jump-start the long-dormant Mideast peace process.

Few details have been given about the summit, and a State Department spokesman said on Tuesday he was not ready to say who had been invited.

Several media reports this week said the United States was trying to garner the support and attendance of Arab nations, which are considered critical to any peace talks.

Invitations will be sent to dozens of countries and organizations and more than 100 people are expected to attend, spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday. Events in Washington are expected before and after the summit. Rice spoke on the telephone with Israeli and Palestinian officials Tuesday, McCormack said.

Both sides were working on a statement of principles before the summit and on "what happens after Annapolis." That document has not materialized so far, McCormack said.

The Annapolis summit, he said, should be viewed as "a beginning of a negotiation" that the United States hopes will result in Israel existing alongside a Palestinian state.

Olmert told his Cabinet earlier this week that the summit "is not a conference for negotiations."

The meeting will lay the foundation for future talks, which "will deal with all the substantive issues that are an inseparable part of the process, which must lead to a solution of national states for two people," Olmert said.

Earlier this month, Rice spoke with Abbas and Olmert and emerged saying that a Palestinian state was within reach. She said the Annapolis summit could be a "launching pad" for a two-state solution.

"We appear to be on course to prepare seriously for continuous ongoing negotiations," Rice said, appearing with Abbas at a news briefing in the West Bank. She added there were "very clear signs" that Arab states were supporting negotiations.

Abbas said at the briefing that he, too, was encouraged.

"We are serious to use this opportunity to reach this historical peace which would lead to the establishment of the Palestinian state and its capital East Jerusalem, that will live side by side with the state of Israel," said Abbas. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Charley Keyes contributed to this report.

All About Ehud OlmertMahmoud AbbasCondoleezza Rice

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