MIDDLE EAST: Some parties seek firm goals for a Palestinian state, others a vaguer accord. By Anne Gearan THE ASSOCIATED PRESS RAMALLAH, West Bank – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice glossed over differences between Israel and the Palestinians about whether an upcoming peace conference will tackle the hardest issues in their six-decade conflict, saying Thursday the U.S.-sponsored session will be a serious push toward forming an independent Palestinian state. Israel has said it is premature to discuss the thorniest issues. Arab diplomats have compared the quiet U.S. planning for the session, and the vague statements from U.S. officials about the goals for the meeting, with the intensive shuttle diplomacy and U.S. arm-twisting that has preceded past peace summits. Still, after years of deadlock and a hands-off approach by the Bush administration, peace efforts gained momentum this year. Israel, the United States and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are trying to use the internal Palestinian political split as a springboard. Rice, beginning what aides have said will be intensive shuttle diplomacy ahead of the fall conference, said both sides are working on an agreement that would guide their negotiations toward a final peace deal. “The issue is to move the process forward through a document that will help to lay a foundation so that there can be serious negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state as soon as possible,” Rice said. “That’s the purpose.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Palestinians want the fall international conference to yield an outline for a peace deal, complete with timetable, while Israel wants a vaguer declaration of intent. “We need a meeting that advances the cause of a Palestinian state,” Rice said following talks with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. Rice said both sides are addressing “critical, core issues” in preparation for the meeting, expected in mid-November in the United States. She was not specific about whether that means the three questions that have hung over past peace efforts: Final borders of a Palestinian state, the status of disputed Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinian refugees. President Bush in July called for a conference to break the deadlock in the Mideast peace process, but the lack of an official agenda, location and timing for the meeting worries Arab leaders whom the United States wants to recruit as backers for a renewed peace process. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said last week that his country would probably not attend the conference if it did not tackle substantive issues, while Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he is concerned the meeting would amount to nothing without proper preparation.