After criticism that the administration has not been involved enough in seeking a diplomatic solution, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will announce at the State Dept. in two hours that she is leaving Sunday for the Middle East with a first stop in Jerusalem and will outline her expectations for a durable peace plan.
According to a senior U.S. official, she will say that there are no quick fixes and that the U.S. wants a permanent, long-term solution - NOT an immediate cease fire.
She will say that she is serious about this effort, but she will not lower the bar in order to get a quick solution. Aides say Rice does not want "innocent lives to be lost as a down payment for future conflict." Before leaving Sunday, she may meet with the Saudi Foreign Minister who will be coming to Washington this weekend. While in Israel, she is likely to make a side trip to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
At this hour, State is organizing a wider summit on Lebanon to take place Wednesday in Rome and to include Russia, European leaders, Egypt, Jordan Saudi Arabia and Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora. Following that meeting, Rice would go on to an Asian summit in Malaysia, and stand ready to return to the Middle East if developments warranted.