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Rice calls on Israel to remove more roadblocks


Ramallah : US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called on Israel to remove more roadblocks.

“Not all roadblocks are created equal,” she said here Sunday.

“We don’t want to get into a numbers game where you just remove X number of roadblocks but it’s not improving the lives of the Palestinians,” said Rice who arrived here on Saturday evening to push forward the stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

Rice said during a meeting with the Palestinian chief, Mahmoud Abbas she planned to review whether Israel had taken steps on the ground to make life easier for Palestinians.

She urged Israel not to undercut Palestinian security forces as they deploy in the West Bank and questioned if its promises to remove roadblocks had been kept.

Rice pointed out US President George W.Bush believes that the time was now ripe for the establishment of a Palestinian state and that this objective could be reached at the end of the president’s term in office.

For his part, Abbas urged Israel to carry out the first phase of the US- backed Road Map peace plan since it was the reference of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which resumed following a US initiative in November.

The first phase, according to Abbas, is stopping the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the reopening of PNA institutions in Jerusalem and ending of all measures that Israel has taken after the eruption of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Abbas called on Hamas to accept early presidential and parliamentary elections. “We call on Hamas to step back from its coup, to accept the legitimacy and to immediately accept holding early presidential and parliamentary elections,” Abbas told a news conference.

Hamas, which won legislative elections in January 2006, ousted pro-Abbas forces from the Gaza Strip and took over the territory last June.