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Rice, Olmert Discuss Israel-Hezbollah Conflict


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as Israel's offensive in Lebanon against Hezbollah guerrillas continued for the 14th day.

Shortly before Tuesday's meeting in Jerusalem, Mr. Olmert vowed to press on with the offensive. But he said Israel will work with the United States to alleviate humanitarian problems caused by the conflict.

Standing beside the Israeli leader, Rice repeated the U.S. position that a cessation of hostilities must come with conditions to make peace sustainable.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting that during Monday's talks with Lebanese officials in Beirut, Rice outlined a plan to end the violence.

Citing U.S. and Lebanese officials, the newspaper says the plan calls for the deployment of an international force -- possibly led by NATO -- in a buffer zone inside Lebanon, which will later train the Lebanese army to regain control of the border region.

According to the report, Mr. Siniora promised to explore the plan with other government leaders. But, Lebanon's parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, who is a Shi'ite with close ties to Hezbollah, warned that the guerrilla group is not likely to accept any foreign military presence in its traditional stronghold of southern Lebanon.

Rice will also hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, before leaving the region for an international conference in Rome on the crisis on Wednesday.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says delegates at the Rome meeting need to agree to a concrete strategy to end the violence.
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