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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told JTA that the upcoming summit in Annapolis will serve as a launching point for future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In an exclusive interview, Rice said the Israeli-Palestinian conference “is going to happen,” but said she did not expect the conference would last for “several days.”

U.S. sources have confirmed that the gathering will take place the week of Nov. 26 but couldn’t be any more specific. Jerusalem sources said Monday that the U.S.-hosted parley will take place Nov. 27 and be held over one day.

Expectations had been that the conference would last two or three days. If true, the shorter length suggests that there will not be extensive talks on the prospects for Palestinian statehood.

Rice appeared to confirm that in the interview. “They’re not going to create the Palestinian state at Annapolis,” she told JTA. When asked if Saudi participation has been secured, she said no invitations had been sent out yet. “I don’t want to speculate about the participants,” Rice said.

Further lowering expectations, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier that at Annapolis he would seek to lay the groundwork for future peace negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“It is a meeting; it is not a negotiating session,” Olmert told his parliamentary faction. “But it is a certainly a meeting intended to provide an opportunity for generating a diplomatic process between us and the Palestinians.”

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