Condoleezza Rice is traveling to the Middle East ahead of Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The U.S. secretary of state will leave Friday and return June 23, visiting Israel, the Palestinian areas, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Rice will examine Palestinian Authority security preparations to assume control once Israel leaves Gaza. “We believe, on the Palestinian side, that security is integral to the success of this disengagement plan,” spokesman Sean McCormack said. “The secretary looks forward to her discussions with Israeli officials and Palestinian officials about progress each are making separately as well as together to make the disengagement a success.” Rice’s top Middle East official, David Welch, is already in the region, and Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser to President Bush, is on his way there.
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