EU, Middle East diplomats weigh peace prospects in Portugal talks

The European Union added its weight to Middle East peacemaking efforts Monday, opening two days of talks with the Palestinian and Israeli foreign ministers. The meeting in Lisbon is part of an intensified diplomatic push by Washington and the EU to lay the groundwork for a peace conference due to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, by the end of the year. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to the region, assured the Palestinians on Monday that she aims to wrap up an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in the remaining year of the Bush administration. She reported a willingness by both sides to push the process forward.