Rice cites progress by Palestinian security forces (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) WASHINGTON 02/01/05)
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WASHINGTON (AFP) - Palestinian forces have made progress toward
bolstering security in the Palestinian territories but have a "long
way to go" to be fully operational, Secretary of State Condoleezza
In an interview before leaving Thursday on a tour of Europe and the
Middle East, Rice also cited Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas´
determination to rein in Islamic militants as an encouraging sign in
the Arab-Israeli peace process.
"We´re clearly in a more hopeful set of circumstances than we were
several months ago," Rice told AFP and the Reuters news agency,
referring to efforts to revive a US-backed "road map" for peace.
"There are a lot of circumstances that are coming into place that
should give us greater opportunity to progress back onto the road map
and then hopefully on to a two-state solution."
The chief US diplomat said the priority task was for the Palestinians
to reform their security services and clamp down on anti-Israeli
attacks by the militants.
"I think they have made some progress in this regard," she
said. "It´s not perfect, but they have made some progress."
She was heartened by Abbas´ move to deploy Palestinian forces in Gaza
but said much work needed to be done to unify his security services,
put them under central control and equip and train them.
"We have a long way to go to fully capable Palestinian security
forces, but there also has to be a will and I do think Abbas showed
will in acting quickly," Rice said.
"We hope they´ll continue to act and to act more effectively."
Since taking over US diplomacy from Colin Powell (news - web sites)
last week, Rice has signaled stepped-up US involvement in the Middle
East peace process and pledged to take a personal role.
She was due to travel to Israel and the West Bank on Sunday and
Monday for talks with Abbas and likely also with Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon.
"What I hope to do when I go there is to try and help to sustain the
momentum that they have clearly developed over the last several
weeks," she said in the interview Tuesday.
Rice said the Israelis also had an obligation to advance the peace
process on issues such as the removal of checkpoints where possible
in the Palestinian territories so residents could commute to work
"Mobility is (an) area in which, as this moves forward and the
security improves, that you would hope the Israelis would be
But she said the Palestinians should take heart from Israel´s
announced willingness to pull out of occupied towns where the
Palestinians might be able to assert security control.
"That is the kind of move by the Israelis that I think should give
some confidence to the Palestinians that they are going to eventually
be in control of their own affairs," Rice said. (Copyright © 2005
Agence France Presse. 02/01/05)
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