Condoleezza Rice arrived Thursday in the Fatah-controlled city of Ramallah, the last leg of her Middle East tour, to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad of the Fatah Party and discuss the formation of an independent Palestinian state.
Rice said the U.S. continued to consider Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his administration as the only legitimate power in the country and would provide further financial assistance to the autonomy.
The Palestinian Hamas movement, which won parliamentary elections in January 2006, seized control of Gaza in June amid a conflict with the Fatah movement. Both parties had formed a coalition government. Following armed clashes with Hamas in Gaza, Abbas dissolved the government and formed a new emergency Cabinet, with Fayad replacing Ismail Haniya of Hamas as prime minister.
The U.S. secretary of state's tour of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories sought to convince all the interested sides of the need to organize a Middle East forum this fall and negotiate an independent Palestinian state.
Following the negotiations with Rice, Abbas said he was ready to cooperate on a "declaration of principles" to secure a peace agreement with Israel, the AP news agency said. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came up with the idea last week.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri was quoted by the Kuwait news agency Kuna as saying Thursday that Rice's visit to Ramallah sought to deepen the split between the Palestinians.
"Rice arrived to help one side in the Palestinian conflict at the expense of the other, and to support the Zionist occupation of Palestine," he said, adding it would only aggravate the conflict.