Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State will visit the Middle East starting in Jordan in bid to revive the stalled Middle East peace process; a spokesperson of the State Department said on Tuesday.

A top Jordanian official said Rice will have talks with Abdullah II, King of Jordan. Who will in turn meet with the Egyptian President Husni Mubarak on Wednesday.

Abdullah and Mubarak will discuss the latest events in Palestine, especially the infighting between the two main rival movements, Fatah and Hamas.

Spokesperson of the US department of State, Sean McCormack also said that Rice will visit Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in her week long visit.  

Rice will also stop in the UK and Germany before going to France to attend the third Lebanon-Support Paris conference to be held on January 25.

Rice’s trip to the Middle East and Europe comes amidst a rise in the challenge between the Republicans and the Democrats who won a majority in Congress in the midterm elections in December of 2006.

Israel has so far refrained to implement the US proposed, Road Map Peace Plan which calls for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and a complete stop of settlement activities.

A recent report by the Israeli Ministry of Interior revealed that settlers in the West Bank increased by 6 per cent in 2006. It is noteworthy that the number presented in the ministry’s report does not include the settlers of East Jerusalem, which if added, will increase the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank to half a million settlers.