debkafile Exclusive: Rice’s quest for a chink of light on the Israeli-Palestinian issue runs into obstacle of Mahmoud Abbas’ Damascus talks Tuesday

The US secretary of state is seeking a handle on the Israeli -Palestinian conflict to ease her bid for backing from Arab rulers for the US drive in Iraq. The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whom Condoleezza Rice meets in Ramallah Sunday, has scheduled a trip to Damascus Tuesday, Jan. 16, for talks with Syrian president Bashar Asad and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal.
Abu Mazen will offer to ditch US sponsorship and accept Syria backing for a Palestinian unity government and a rapprochement with Hamas.
Later Sunday, she dines with King Abdullah in Amman and Monday, she meets with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. Saturday night, no sooner had the US secretary and Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni joined in supporting all stages of the Middle East roadmap when Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak reported he had sent President George W. Bush details of a new Egyptian peace proposal as an alternative to the road map, which he said had failed.
Rice also spoke with defense minister Amir Peretz and minister for strategic threats Avigdor Lieberman. The latter informed her that Israel’s reoccupation of the Gaza Strip to halt the stream of missiles against Israel was inevitable and suggested that NATO dispatch 30,000 troops to hold and secure the Palestinian territory thereafter.

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