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Rice Begins Middle East Tour

Rice (left) with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman in February (epa) March 24, 2007 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Egypt today to start a Middle East tour expected to focus on ways to revive efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is Rice's third trip to the region this year, and her first since the creation of the Palestinian unity government bringing together the Hamas and Fatah factions.

In the Egyptian city of Aswan, Rice is scheduled to meet with officials from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- a group known as the Arab Quartet.

Her tour is also expected to include visits to Israel, to Ramallah in the Palestinian West Bank, and to Jordan.

Ahead of Rice's tour, U.S. President George W. Bush said peace in the Middle East remains a priority for his administration.

UN Secretary-General Also In The Region

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Israel today ahead of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Earlier today Ban met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo amid diplomatic efforts aimed at reviving peace efforts in the Middle East.

Ban said it is necessary for the international community to encourage ongoing peace initiatives in the region.

Ban also urged the newly formed Palestinian government to meet demands set by the international community. He said that he won't be meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah of Hamas during his regional tour.

Ban is due, however, to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas on March 25.

Ban also said today that the United Nations is considering expanding its mission in war-ravaged Iraq.

(compiled from agency reports)