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Rice: 'Willing and Ready' to Resume Mideast Peace Effort

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is "willing and ready" to return to the Middle East and try for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Speaking to reporters in Malaysia today (Thursday), Rice said she would be "more than happy" to return to the Middle East at any time, if that would help achieve a sustainable ceasefire to end the fighting and bloodshed in Lebanon.

Rice is in Kuala Lumpur to attend the annual regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. She says her travel plans following the conference sessions on Friday have not yet been decided.

Between Monday and Wednesday she visited Beirut, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Rome, where senior international diplomats failed to agree on terms of a ceasefire. In contrast to calls for immediate action to end the fighting, the United States has stressed the need for a "sustainable" ceasefire that would ensure a durable truce between Israel and Hezbollah

Several hundred protesters denounced the United States and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as she arrived in Malaysia for a regional security forum this (Thursday) afternoon.

Demonstrators shouted anti-U.S. slogans and displayed signs demanding that Rice leave Malaysia.

The rally in Kuala Lumpur (the capital) was in a park near the site of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum. Those involved were members of Malaysia's fundamentalist Muslim opposition party and several antiwar groups.

Riot police kept the protesters away from the ASEAN forum itself.

The largest opposition party in Malaysia (the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party) plans another anti-Rice protest on Friday.