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Middle East Quartet Meet in Lisbon in Renewed Peace Efforts
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The Middle East Quartet - the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union - meet today to try to restart talks between Israel and Palestine, the Portuguese government said yesterday.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are all due at the Lisbon meeting.

Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country now holds the rotating EU presidency, expressed confidence in the Quartet's fresh peace efforts.

He said he believed that Tony Blair's role as the quartet's new special envoy will guarantee the success of the meeting against the backdrop of renewed US push for the Middle East peace.

Blair, appointed after his resignation as British prime minister on June 27, is expected to unveil his plans to lay the groundwork for a future Palestinian state.

US President George W. Bush on Monday announced his new Middle East initiative. According to the plan, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will chair a conference in the autumn that would include the Israelis, Palestinians and their Arab neighbors committed to the two-state solution.

Bush also earmarked US$190 million in direct aid to the Palestinian government led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The US plan emerged in an effort to bolster Abbas's more moderate Fatah government in its power struggle against the Hamas militant group which still refuses to recognize Israel.

(Xinhua News Agency July 19, 2007)

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