Rice defends US Mideast policy, seeks more Arab efforts

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday defended US policy in the Mideast, also urging Arab leaders to get more involved in reviving the peace process. At a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit in Aswan, Rice said since US President George W. Bush assumed his position, he had faced ‘a very difficult situation in the Middle East’ and that ‘he worked patiently to try and lay a better foundation for peace’ including the establishment of ‘a Palestinian State.’

 

Rice also asserted that ‘the Palestinian people have waited long enough to have a state of their own’ and added that the Israeli people also had waited long enough for peace and stability.

 

Abul-Gheit said the upcoming phase would witness ‘practical steps’ towards Israeli-Palestinian ‘reconciliation.’

 

Rice urged Arab States to be more involved in the peace process praising the Saudi latest initiative and described Egypt as ‘a long- time leader in Middle East peace efforts’ whose leaders have always taken ‘risks’ in their ‘search for peace.’

 

‘Everyone had to contribute to make the region more peaceful,’ she said. ‘I hope that every state would try to make this happen.’

 

Abul-Gheit said the peace process could not be the concern of a single Arab country and that it is the ‘collective responsibility’ of the Arab States.

 

The press conference followed Rice’s meeting with President Hosny Mubarak. Their talks focused on a full range of issues including the Mideast peace process, the support of democracy in Iraq against extremist forces, developments in Lebanon and Sudan, Iran’s nuclear programme and the constitutional amendments in Egypt.

 

Rice’s Middle East tour, seen as part of the latest round of diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing an end to the conflict, precedes an Arab summit scheduled for March 28.

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