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Rice upbeat on Mideast conference

The upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace conference under U.S. auspices will produce concrete results, Condoleezza Rice said.

The U.S. secretary of state, who flew Wednesday to Israel and the Palestinian Authority for shuttle talks, rebuffed Arab concerns that the conference President Bush plans for November will lead to rhetoric rather than progress.

“The idea that somehow the president of the United States would call an international meeting so that we could all have a photo op is very far-fetched,” Rice told reporters en route to Tel Aviv.

“I think everyone expects it to be serious and substantive, and everybody expects it to address critical issues. We don’t expect anything less,” she said. “We can’t simply continue to say we want a two-state solution, we have got to start to move towards one.”

U.S. officials say that Rice, who will spend just over 24 hours in the region, hopes to prod Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas toward agreement on what to expect from the conference.

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