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. Rice arrives in Russia to discuss Iran, Mideast with G8
MOSCOW, June 28 (AFP) Jun 28, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived on Wednesday evening in Moscow, where she is to discuss the Iran nuclear crisis and Middle East peace process with Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers.

"We'll talk about the Iranian situation, I'm certain," Rice told CNN news earlier in the Afghan capital Kabul before leaving for Russia.

Iran has still not formally responded to an international offer of incentives and multilateral talks if it agrees to temporarily halt the enrichment of uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear fuel or atomic bombs.

"We'll talk about the Middle East, how to encourage the Hamas Government to accept the Quartet principles so that we can get back on a road toward a negotiation toward two states," Rice said, referring to international diplomatic efforts to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The United States earlier offered support for Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Washington blamed Hamas for the incursion and urged the Palestinian militant group to free an Israeli soldier whose capture provoked the assault.

Rice arrived in Moscow at 6:30 pm (1430 GMT) and was due to have dinner with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov later on Wednesday.

She flew to Moscow after a lightning trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan, whom she urged to cooperate to stamp out extremists operating either side of their common border. Rice met the Afghan President Hamid Karzai during the visit.

She also said the G8 delegates would discuss support for Afghanistan, where a stepped-up Taliban insurgency is among the problems facing a NATO-led peacekeeping force, and the situation in violence-plagued Iraq.

"We'll talk about how the international community can support the new Iraqi Government, the first democratically elected government in Iraq, that... now has asked the international community for its support " Rice told CNN.

"I think the G8 can make a firm statement about that."

"We should also talk about democracy," she added, expressing a desire for Russia to "enhance its commitment to democratic development", as well as citing Belarus and other "places that have yet to see a democratic future".

"It's a broad and important agenda. I look forward to meeting with my foreign minister colleagues," she said.

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