In Amman, Rice also met Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for a second time, and will travel to Jerusalem for another round of talks with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli president.

 

Israelis protest

In a move to embarrass the Israeli government as Rice visits the region, hundreds of evicted Israeli settlers poured into the West Bank city of Homesh on Monday and said they planned to re-establish a Jewish presence there.

Around 300 Israeli settlers, evicted from Homesh in 2005, organised the protest as more than 1,000 Israeli officers and soldiers gathered to stop the protesters.

 

Israeli soldiers looked on as activists entered the abandoned settlement, the group then hoisted an Israeli flag over a water tower and started setting up tents.

Israel evacuated 8,500 Jewish settlers in 2005 from 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip as well as four small settlements in the West Bank, including Homesh.

Since the evacuation, Israelis have been prohibited from re-entering Homesh, which used to house over 200 settlers.

'In Homesh to stay'

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, brushed aside the presence of the protesters as "a one-day visit to Homesh by some sympathisers".

"At the end of the day it will end and I certainly hope that we will not need to use any other measures to make sure that this place remains as it was yesterday," Olmert said.

Amir Peretz, the country's defence minister, said everything would be done to avoid violence but noted that those that ignore the authorities will be pulled out "without compromise".

Ragheb Abu Diak, who heads the municipal council at the nearby Palestinian village of Silit al-Dhahr, accused the Israeli army of providing

"We are here to build a new the settlement"

-Yossi Dagan, Jewish settler and activist

protection to the settlers.

Israeli protesters said they were in Homesh to stay.

"We are here to build a new the settlement," Yossi Dagan, a settler activist said.

Boaz Ha'etzni, one of the organisers of the protest, said a "nucleus of 30 families" planned to resettle in Homesh.

About 270,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank among 2.5 million Palestinians. The World Court has ruled that settlements built on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War are illegal.