Secretary Rice to Discuss Lebanon Conflict With Annan

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to New York to discuss the crisis in Lebanon with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the European Union foreign policy chief, Annan's top deputy said Wednesday.

Rice is likely to make a trip to the Middle East this weekend, but State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said she had not yet fixed a date.

"She wants to time it so that it is useful and helpful in getting a cease-fire that is lasting and brings a durable cessation to violence," he said.

Annan, Rice and Javier Solana will have a private dinner Thursday evening after Annan briefs the full U.N. Security Council on Lebanon, said U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.

Malloch Brown said Rice's trip is meant to "get everybody on the same page about the facts of what's happening in this very confusing situation." He said there would be a larger meeting with senior U.N. and U.S. officials, members of a U.N. mission that had been in the Mideast, and others, either before the dinner or on Friday.

Annan and the three-member U.N. team that was just in the region are returning to New York on Wednesday. It was unclear whether the mission, led by Annan's political adviser Vijay Nambiar, would also report to the council.

"There is no doubt that the ability of the international community to influence these extremely dangerous events in the region will be enormously helped if everybody is as close to each other as possible in terms of the messages they're delivering to the leaders of the region," Malloch Brown said.

On Tuesday, Rice held a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in which she said she would make a trip to the troubled region when it will be "helpful and necessary." First, Rice said, she would receive an assessment of the situation from a U.N. team on Thursday.