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Rice Meets With Siniora In Beirut

Rice (left) with Sinoria in Beirut on July 24 (epa) July 24, 2006 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Beirut on a surprise visit for talks with Lebanese leaders on the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

She met Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whom she thanked for his "courage and steadfastness." Siniora said Lebanon is hoping to "put an end to the war being inflicted" on it.

Rice also held talks with Lebanon's parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, whom Hizballah has informally made its representatives in any discussions.

Earlier, Rice said she is "deeply concerned" about the humanitarian situation in Lebanon and the conditions the Lebanese people are enduring.

Rice was originally scheduled to go only to Israel today, but her itinerary was changed at the last minute.

Her visit to Beirut comes as fighting continues. Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of raids overnight, but military activity today has been focused on a push by ground troops into southern Lebanon.

The army says the troops aim to capture the Hizballah stronghold of Bint Jbail.

(compiled from agency reports)