Washington (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said here Tuesday there was still a chance to reach an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the outlines of a Palestinian state, but stopped saying it could be sealed by the end of the year. "We still believe that we have a chance to reach an agreement on the basic contours of a peaceful Palestinian state. I know that this is ambitious," Rice told the annual policy conference of the pro-Israel lobby, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. "But if we can pursue this goal by the end of the year, it will be an historic breakthrough." In the past, US officials have spoken of actually reaching a deal on the outlines of such a state by the end of the year, when US President George W Bush prepares to leave office. The goal she mentioned - a deal on the contours of a Palestinian state - would last into the next administration. "The goal itself, though, will endure beyond the current US leadership," Rice said. "I believe this administration's approach to this problem will and must endure. This means the need to support responsible Palestinians in building a democratic state from the ground up that has both the will and means to fight terrorists," she added. Rice's comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived for talks here with Rice and US President George W Bush. He leaves a political crisis at home that has raised questions both about his own future and that of the peace process that Bush relaunched in Annapolis, Maryland in November last year. Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas at the time pledged to try to reach a deal before Bush leaves the White House in January 2009. In the meantime, Syria and Israel announced last month that they had resumed indirect peace talks under the aegis of Turkey, something Washington insists should not distract from the main goal of achieving a framework Palestinian-Israeli deal. Rice reiterated the US concerns at the AIPAC meeting here in Washington. "We do appreciate the effort that our ally Turkey is making to support peace between Israel and Syria," she said. "The key is to pursue all avenues of peace, but while maintaining focus on the Palestinian because it is the most advanced and because it is supported by the international community as a whole," Rice said. Rice also stuck by the US two-track approach of increasing UN sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt its disputed nuclear work, while dangling incentives to Tehran if it complies with international demands. "For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," she said to rousing applause