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(photo credit: AP)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there was still hope that Israel and the Palestinians could reach a deal before US President George W. Bush leaves the White House at the end of his second term early next year.
"There is still time for them to, in accordance with Annapolis, reach agreement by the end of the year," Rice told reporters in Australia. "We will keep working toward that goal."
Rice is to sit down with senior negotiators from each side next week in Washington for so-called trilateral talks.
"The important thing right now is to take note of how seriously they are negotiating, to note that there was not even last year a peace process at this time, and to recognize that since this president came to office, the notion of two states living side-by-side in peace and security has become common wisdom," Rice said.
In contrast, US Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams was quoted Friday as saying that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did have enough political weight to sell a peace deal with the Palestinians to the Israeli public.
In a meeting with Jewish leaders in the US, Abrams said he doubted the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would bring about any agreement at all, Israel Radio reported.
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