Dubai: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday started a new peace mission in Israel and the Palestinian territories to weigh the possibility of announcing that a partial written agreement has been reached before the end of the year, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

"The minimum that Rice's tour can yield is to show that the peace talks are still going on," Palestinian analyst Hani Al Masri said. "The maximum she seeks is to announce agreement on a document or a declaration of principles between the two," he added.

He was referring to what was leaked in the press and called a "shelf agreement". In the proposed document, the two sides will detail their positions on various issues and leave implementation for the future.

However, such a proposal has been rejected by the two parties.

The Palestinians will not sign any document that does not meet their minimum demands regarding core issues left for the final status talks, including the future of Jerusalem, borders and refugees, analysts said.


Israelis leaders also believe they should avoid an ambiguous agreement. Referring to Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert and both ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, the Haaretz newspaper in Israel wrote on Monday, saying they all have agreed to reject the idea.

"In their view, such a document would only harm Israel and serve as a basis for pressure in the future," it added.

Rice admitted yesterday that the Israelis and Palestinians have a "lot of work ahead" if they are to strike a peace deal by year-end.

"We continue to have the same goal which is to reach agreement by the end of the year," Rice was quoted as saying on the plane from Washington to Tel Aviv. Rice started her 25-hour mission yesterday with meetings with Livni, Barak and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qorei.

She is expected to meet Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today. On the Palestinian side, analysts and observers say Olmert, Rice and Abbas are all too weak to take a single step (forward)", columnist Elias Zananeri told Gulf News. The three leaders just want to keep the "negotiations in play."