Official: U.S. committed to Mideast peace

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The Bush administration wants peace in the Middle East, but Israel must stop settlement work and Palestinians must end violence, officials said Thursday.

"We are committed to trying to make this conflict come to an end," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield said at the U.S. Institute for Peace, a Washington think tank.


He called the present calm in the region "the greatest opportunity" in four years of bloodshed, but warned of divisive issues, including Palestinian militant groups, Israeli settlement activity and the separation barrier.

"If Israel sees the emergence of a Palestinian partner, if Gaza withdrawal works in the truest sense of the word, a return to a broader political process should be assured," he said.

He called the Israeli plan to pullout from the Gaza Strip this summer positive, but noted Israeli settlement activity must stop "because it ultimately undermines Israeli, as well as Palestinian, interests and futures."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits the region next week to meet with leaders from both sides.

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