Rice heads to Middle East

Condoleezza Rice is headed to Israel and the Palestinian areas.

The U.S. Secretary of State will leave Sunday to discuss “ongoing efforts to create positive and lasting peace in the region and progress towards the shared goal of a peace agreement in 2008,” a State Department statement said Friday.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have in recent weeks downplayed expectations that a deal will be closed before year’s end. President Bush had pledged last year that the renewed talks would end in an agreement before he leaves office next January.

The United Nations this week announced that the Quartet, the grouping of the U.N. the United States, Russia and the European Union that guides Middle East peacemaking, will consider the talks during the U.N. General Assembly in the second half of September.

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