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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that the Middle East peace process launched by President George W. Bush is the best chance yet to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and should not be dropped because it will not meet a year-end deadline to reach a deal.

Rice told The Associated Press in an interview that the negotiations begun at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, last November have produced solid results.

"The United States expects strong support at the United Nations this week for a U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrines the initiative in the international system," Rice said.

"That's a really rather simple resolution, but it does put Annapolis in that long litany now of important Security Council resolutions supporting the peace process," she said. "The Security Council will make clear that that is the basis going (forward)".

The Security Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a U.S.-Russian-sponsored resolution that demands that Israelis and Palestinians fulfill their obligations under the Annapolis process and for all nations and international groups to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to negotiations.

Rice said she believed that a lot of the fundamentals are in place for the administration of President-elect Barack Obama to work to achieve peace and noted that Israelis and Palestinians have said they think they have accomplished more through Annapolis than they did during the last sustained negotiations during the Clinton administration in 2000.

Many Clinton-era Mideast advisers are part of Obama's foreign policy transition team, and it is possible that they may want to try their own approach to Middle East peacemaking.

Rice declined to discuss her specific recommendations to Obama's advisers, including Secretary of State-designee Hillary Rodham Clinton, but made clear that she believed Annapolis should not be abandoned as the two sides have significant progress on the core issue.

"I just think that the Annapolis process, because it is both bottom-up and topdown, is the most likely chance that we have to bring about the two-state solution that the president has talked so much about," she said.

The Security Council has not passed a resolution on the Middle East that calls for collective peace by insisting on a two-nation solution for Israelis and Palestinians since 2003.