Rice Returns From Middle East Empty-Handed

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Condoleezza Rice's recent trip to the Middle East was a failure for American diplomacy, as the U.S. Secretary of State encountered united Arab opposition to Washington's plans to isolate the Hamas-led government in Palestine.

By Mouna Naim, Le Monde correspondent in Beirut

Translated By Mike Goeden

February 24, 2006


Original Article (French)



Rice Commiserates with the Foreign Minister
of the United Arab Emrates, Sheik Abdullah bin
Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, Feb. 23. Rice's
Proposals on Hamas Were Rejected. (above)

RealVideo[NEWS PHOTOS: Rice in Mideast].

Secretary Rice Meets King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Al-Saud, and Encounters the Same Response
to American Proposals to Hamas. (below)






Here She is With Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad
Abul Gheit in Cairo, on Wednesday. (above).


Rice Meets with Lebanese Patriarch Cardinal
Nasrallah Sfeir, in Beirut Last Thursday. (below).







Rice Shakes Hands with Lebanese Druze Leader
Walid Jumblatt, as Saad Hariri, Son of Slain Lebanese
President Rafik Hariri, Looks On, Feb. 23. (above)


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Allow for an initial grace period and refrain from making Palestinians pay for a political agenda yet-to-be outlined by the fledgling Hamas government. This essentially is the message that was addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her tour of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, from February 22-23.

Besides leaders of the Emirates, Mrs. Rice met with her counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council's six monarchies in Abu Dhabi. Her tour of the region also included a brief, unexpected stopover in Lebanon on Thursday, meant to demonstrate American "support" for the country's current political majority.

Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, declared during a joint press conference with Ms. Rice that Saudi Arabia would continue to give financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, even under a Hamas government. The Secretary pled for a continuation to the Palestinians of humanitarian assistance only.

"How do you distinguish between humanitarian and non-humanitarian aid?" asked Prince Saud, before adding that, "The Palestinians need both infrastructure and humanitarian aid, and we will continue to help them." In Cairo the previous day, Ms. Rice had been told that Hamas must be given enough time to assess the situation and outline a political program.

In addition to the grave repercussions for the Palestinian people that a drying up of international aid would engender, the Arab countries fear that isolating the Palestinian government would work in favor of the most radical groups, even those operating outside the occupied territories.

Arab nations also dread pushing Hamas definitively into the arms of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has announced that it would compensate any loss of international aid and called for all Muslims to accord yearly financial assistance to the Hamas-led government. Iran's nuclear program was also on everyone's mind. For the Arab countries, this program is problematic if it conceals militarization plans; however, for these same countries, Israel poses no less of a threat, as it already possesses nuclear weapons.

DISARMING THE MILITIAS

Mrs. Rice conducted her visit to underscore her country's "support" for Lebanon. Rather than meeting with President Emile Lahoud, who clearly lacks popular support, she met with Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite community, who effectively presides over the Republic. In addition to the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, and the speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, Mrs. Rice spoke with the two main majority figures, Saad Hariri and Walid Joumblatt, at the latter's home in Beirut. A few hours after her departure, all lawmakers from the majority boycotted the Assembly meeting because it was held in the presidential palace. This decision was made as part of the majority's program of attempting to force Mr. Lahoud's resignation.

The U.S. Secretary of State also reminded her interlocutors of the need to apply UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which stipulates the disarmament of militias: in other words of Hezbollah and the Palestinians. In response, the general secretary of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah [SEE VIDEO BELOW], exclaimed during a rally, "Rather than exploiting Lebanon's governmental institutions and differences of opinion to the benefit of Israel ... the United States should instead send its soldiers to disarm us."


VIDEO FROM LEBANON: 'ZIONISTS' PLANNING MORE MOSQUE ATTACKS

WindowsVideoAl-Manar TV, Lebanon: Excerpts from a speech given by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on the reasons behind the bombing of Iraq's Samarra Mosque, February 23, 2006, 00:03:34 MEMRI

"This is undoubtedly a Zionist plot to get the Islamic nation accustomed to the destruction of its domes, minarets, and sacred tombs, so it will be easier for the nation to accept it, the day the Zionist Jews destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque, God forbid.."


Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah

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