Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rice Struggles to Find Support for Mideast Policies

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced an uphill struggle trying to reconcile Washington's push for democracy and concerns over rising Islamism as she pressed on with a tour of Mideast allies. Washington's top diplomat held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak which focused on the aftermath of Hamas victory last month in the Palestinian parliamentary elections.

During a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Tuesday, she reiterated the tough stance of her administration, which lists Hamas as a terrorist organization."You cannot have one foot in the camp of terror and another foot in the camp of politics" she said, adding that the international community expected the Islamist movement to recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.

Hamas has used softer language since its resounding electoral victory over the mainstream Fatah but has stopped short of considering normalization with the Jewish state. But Egypt has argued Washington had to respect the outcome of the democratic Palestinian elections and should not rush to boycott a government led by Hamas.

We should give Hamas time, Abul Gheit said. I am sure that Hamas will develop, will evolve. We should not prejudge the issue, Abul Gheit said. The United States has threatened to cut aid to a Hamas-led government if the militant movement did not recognize Israel and end violence.

Egypt is an important voice at this time of change and choice for the Palestinian people" said Rice, who held talks earlier Tuesday with Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Hamas which was asked by Palestinian President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to form the next government, dismissed Rice's comments and argued Washington's tough talk could only backfire.

The United States still haven't learned that the language of threats doesn't work with Hamas, the movement's spokesman Mohammed Nazzal told AFP.

The more the United States pressures Hamas, the more the Palestinian people will support Hamas, he said after meeting one of Suleiman's deputies, Mohsen Al-Naamani. Nazzal interpreted Rice's remarks as a sign of US "nervousness;.

Before departing to Saudi Arabia, Rice also had brief meeting with members of Egypt's civil society ( Not known members of Islamic party-Muslim Brotherhood) who exposed their ideas about means of promoting democracy whilst at the same time countering the rise of Islamism.

Eliminating the Muslim Brothers is totally non-democratic. The issue is how can we compete with them,; intellectual Tarek Heggi told her. He urged Washington to be more specific in promoting democracy in the region.

Since the victory of Hamas, Washington is hesitant to promote democracy in the region, Islamist are very strong In Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine, it seems that democracy in the region will help the enemies of United States, whether the Bush administration will continue to support democracy in Islamic world is questionable.


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