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Rice says Mideast peace is in reach

May 05, 2008|From the Chicago Tribune

JERUSALEM — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace pact this year is achievable, but she criticized Israeli settlement activity and pushed for additional removals of West Bank roadblocks.

Rice's optimism on an agreement contrasted with more pessimistic assessments voiced by leaders on both sides.

At a news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Rice said, "We continue to believe that it is an achievable goal to have an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis by the end of the year."

She said that in discussions with Israeli officials about removing checkpoints and roadblocks, she raised the issue of whether the previous removal of some obstacles had had a significant effect.

After Rice's last trip here in March, Israel said it had removed 61 obstacles in the West Bank, but a United Nations survey found that only 44 roadblocks had been taken down, and that most had little or no effect on movement, or had been erected shortly before their removal.

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