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Rice Expected to Take First Official Trip (AP) By ANNE GEARAN WASHINGTON 01/27/05 1:54 PM)Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41752-2005Jan27.html AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
WASHINGTON - Newly installed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the Middle East, European capitals, Poland and Turkey beginning next week in her first foreign trip as America´s top diplomat.

The State Department said Thursday that Rice, who was spending her first day on the job, will visit nine countries and the West Bank. Rice will visit Britain, and Germany, Italy, France, Belgium and Luxembourg in western Europe, plus Poland and Turkey, spokesman Richard Boucher said. She will be gone a week.

Among her goals are mending relations with U.S. allies in Europe and assessing prospects for Arab-Israeli negotiations.

"She will meet leaders on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian leaders," Boucher said. "She will, first of all, look to hear from them about the opportunities and how they´re proceeding."

In France, Rice plans to give her first major speech as secretary of state.

President Bush also plans a trip to Europe later in February, and Rice´s visit helps prepare the way, Boucher said. Rice and her designated deputy Robert Zoellick plan to visit all the NATO capitals in the next few months.

"She intends to promote President Bush´s vision of democracy and freedom as the keys to peace and prosperity," Boucher said.

"She will work to identify a common agenda for 2005 with our European partners and our partners in the Middle East, an agenda of fighting terrorism, proliferation, disease and poverty, as we support democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere."

Boucher said Rice will discuss NATO and separate European government help for training for Iraqi security forces.

He gave no precise details on the dates of each stop.

Meanwhile, David Satterfield, a senior State Department Middle East expert, said Thursday the prospects for forward movement in the Arab- Israeli conflict are better than at any time over the past four years.

Addressing a conference sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace, Satterfield said the Gaza disengagement that Israel has proposed offers a "tremendous opportunity" for progress toward a peaceful settlement.

He cautioned, however, that a Palestinian state "can´t be built on the foundation of terrorist violence."

Satterfield said there has been some progress in U.S. consultations with Israel on the routing of the separation barrier that Israel is constructing in the West Bank to enhance its security.

"Jerusalem is an especially sensitive area for the wall," he said. "We´re deeply concerned over various aspects of the routing of the barrier in that area." (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 01/27/05)

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